In Pakistan, a new hotline that educates women about abortion options was launched yesterday, but has already sparked controversy. The hotline plans to give women information about Misoprostol, a drug available by prescription to treat gastric ulcers, to safely and effectively induce abortion and also how “to prevent dangerous hemorrhaging after giving birth” according to Women on Waves. Trained staff will also provide abortion information in rural areas. The hotline was founded by several Pakistani women’s groups in conjunction with Women on Waves, a Dutch non-profit.
In Pakistan, abortion is illegal unless the mother’s life is in danger and social stigma regarding unplanned or unwanted pregnancies has contributed to a thriving unsafe underground abortion network. The Population Council reports in 2008 (see PDF) that 320 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births in Pakistan compared to 11 per 100,000 in the US.
Shaista Gohir, executive director of the Muslim Women’s Network told the Independent, “While the debate continues on whether terminating a pregnancy is allowed or not, and under what conditions, thousands of women are dying as a result of unsafe backstreet abortions…The Pakistani government is failing in its duty to provide adequate family planning services.”