Survey finds dangers of unsafe abortion practices in Solomons

12:25 pm on 9 November 2022
A clinical nurse provides advice to a young woman in Malaita province

A clinical nurse provides advice to a young woman in Malaita province Photo: Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association

A report on women's health in Solomon Islands has revealed that unsafe abortion practices is a serious public health issue.

The Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA) study surveyed women across the Solomons to gather their personal experiences with abortion and contraception.

In Solomon Islands, contraception use for women of reproductive age was last measured at 27 percent in 2013, and has decreased over time.

Unless the mother's life is at stake, abortion is illegal in Solomon Islands. This has led to some women seeking backstreet abortions for unwanted pregnancies.

Pacific Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Chris Golden, said due to contraception being widely frowned upon, women are given unreliable information leading to drastic situations upon falling pregnant.

"There's a lot of misconceptions about contraception," he said.

"There are concerns about how does somebody manage their sexual health attitudes. For example, one woman said she was told that when she had an unwanted pregnancy, one of the advices from a family member was to climb a tree and jump out of it, because that would induce an abortion.

"That's terrible advice and this is like the sort of thing that we often work against."

Gendered norms and violence restricts women's right to choose to when to start a family.

Through focus groups discussions, the report noted that women who were married or in a relationship were forbidden to use contraception due to their partner's embedded cultural or religious views.

Women neglecting themselves

Clinical nurse Hiulyn Vozoto said too often women in partnerships neglect their own ambitions.

"The biggest challenge women face in Solomon Islands is decision-making," she said.

"Decision-making and whatever plans or whatever decision in their home they always depend on the husband - they never make their own decision. That's one of the challenges I see with the women in Solomon Islands."

Participants in the report shared that unwanted pregnancies drive women to either seek unsafe termination methods, abandoning the baby, or suicide.

President of the National Women's Council, Ella Kahue, said because of the shame and stigma, abortion isn't openly discussed which she said also poses a risk to women's lives.

"Abortion here, is not a talked-about issue and in itself is life-threatening for young girls or anyone who engage in that. When we talk about abortion, it is done in secrecy."

Organisations and health providers are hopeful that the report will improve government and civil society responses to unwanted pregnancies as well as invest in more community-based programs that empower women to make informed choices.

IPPF Director of Operations Pacific Chris Golden

Photo: International Planned Parenthood Federation