According to Penal Code, Law No. 2016/007, Articles 337 – 339 (2016) abortion is permitted when a
woman’s life is at risk, to preserve her physical and mental health and on grounds of rape or incest. Illegal abortions are punishable by a fine and imprisonment of up to five years for the abortionist, one year for the woman herself and two years for anyone supplying drugs or instruments to induce abortion.
To authorize a legal abortion “The doctor shall obtain the opinion of two experts each chosen respectively from legal experts and members of the National Council of Medical Practitioners. The latter shall testify in writing that the life of the mother can only be safeguarded by means of the intervention. The protocol of consultation shall be made in 3 copies one of which shall be handed to the patient and the other two to the consultant physician and legal expert. Besides, a protocol of the decision taken shall be sent by registered mail to the chairperson of the National Council of Medical Practitioners.’’
This law might be considered problematic on two fronts: firstly, in constituting the legally recommended team, and secondly, most women eligible for legally accepted abortions might not even be aware of the law. With a scarcity of physicians in health facilities, not to talk of specialists, obtaining legal abortions on request becomes an illusion. In order words, the legal framing of the law could push women to inevitably seek abortions elsewhere (unsafe).
In the wake of the armed conflict in the NW and SW regions where many rape cases have been reported especially in the rural areas, have victims who get pregnant been able to exercise their right? Will Cameroon remain indifferent in the ratification and gradual adoption of more liberal laws regarding abortion which date back to 1967? Experts think it should be reformed to suit changing times.
Elimination of unsafe abortion related complications and deaths in Cameroon
Unsafe abortion is a procedure for termination of an unintended or unwanted pregnancy done either by people lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimum medical standards, or both (WHO).
Post-abortion care (PAC) includes treatment of incomplete and unsafe abortion complications; counselling to identify and respond to emotional and physical needs; contraceptive and family-planning services and reproductive and other health services. Due to the illegality of abortion and absence of a universal health insurance scheme, a national policy on PAC is difficult to be established and implemented. Poorer women majority of whom are from rural communities disproportionately seek for clandestine abortion providers, who do not generally have the expertise and competence to manage possible complications. However, only women obtaining induced abortions from health care facilities could benefit from these services. Post abortion counseling is a unique opportunity to insist on potential and adapted methods of contraception. Healthcare workers should have as a mandate to provide non-judgmental Post abortion care including contraception counseling before discharging women at postpartum or who have had an induced abortion. Scaling up of Misoprostol and manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) services in health facilities is not only highly needed, but appears feasible. Also, liberalization of the law on induced abortions could reduce the number of unsafe abortions although opposition to abortion by the Church and local moral condemnation can only remain the main cause of secrecy which is the major barrier to adequate post abortion care (Bain and Kongnyuy 2018, BMC Women’s Health)