Parliamentary probe into illegal abortion clinics in Bahrain

Cytotec is allegedly being smuggled into Bahrain and used to perform illegal abortions

  

Illegal abortion clinics are the target of a parliamentary inquiry launched in Bahrain.

It follows claims that houses and apartments are being used to perform the procedure illegally.

The probe will also focus on the alleged smuggling of medications into the country to abort pregnancies.

Two parliamentary committees have launched the joint investigation, amid claims that illegal clinics were charging as much as BD500 to carry out the procedure.

Abortions are illegal in Bahrain except at authorised hospitals in cases where a pregnant woman’s life is in danger.

However, MP Bader Al Dossary – who is spearheading the inquiry – said initial information suggested procedures were being offered by organised abortion rings.

Evidence

He added that in addition to abortions, makeshift clinics were also performing hymen reconstruction surgeries to remove evidence of the procedure.

“Most of the intel we received from the public was about expatriate rings, mainly from Southeast Asia, performing abortions and hymen reconstruction surgeries from houses and apartments,” said Mr Al Dossary, who is vice-chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee.

“We are speaking about serious improper practices being done en masse by unprofessional individuals who collect around BD300 to BD500 for each operation in those so-called clinics.

“The situation is alarming. We understand there have been efforts to stop this, but it is not enough and those clinics have mushroomed dramatically.

“We are speaking about painful operations that cause excessive bleeding. We need an urgent clampdown before someone dies.”

Mr Al Dossary’s committee is leading the inquiry in conjunction with parliament’s services committee.

Officials from the Interior Ministry, the Health Ministry and the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) are expected to be summoned for their feedback in the coming days.

The inquiry will look into allegations that pills such as Cytotec (sold under the brand name Misoprostol), were being smuggled into Bahrain through the airport.

Cytotec is allegedly being smuggled into Bahrain and used to perform illegal abortions.

“Abortion pills are mixed with other legitimate medications and brought in by plane under the guise of being for personal use,” said Mr Al Dossary.

“The situation is very difficult.”

MP Mamdooh Al Saleh, who is also involved in the inquiry as parliament’s services committee vice-chairman, said there were serious concerns that pregnant women were endangering their own lives.

“What has emerged is very dangerous in all aspects, as such surgeries have just mushroomed,” he said.

“I am not against abortion if it is for a valid reason, for example in cases of rape or for medical reasons.

“But it should be performed by professional medical consultants at the Health Ministry, nowhere else – especially not at people’s homes.

“We are worried about the equipment and medication used, hygiene and bogus medical staff.

“It is clear that things are being done wrong and this could result in someone’s death.”

This is not the first time illegal abortion clinics in Bahrain have hit the headlines.

In 2017 a female Indian doctor was caught with more than 1,000 Misoprostol pills, stashed in her office at the hospital and at her home, along with cash in various currencies.

Illegal

During the same year two Bahraini doctors who worked at Salmaniya Medical Complex were jailed for 12 months each for carrying out illegal abortion and hymen reconstruction surgeries, for which they charged up to BD1,500.

In 2016, authorities discovered a doctor was running an illegal pharmacy from his private clinic and his home.

Bahrain’s Shura Council is currently reviewing a change in the law that could legalise abortion where a pregnant woman faces non-life threatening health complications, or where an infant will be born with physical deformities or mental disabilities.

One of the chamber’s committees has recommended this should be limited to pregnancies under three months, if both parents agree.

Both the existing law and the proposed amendment require three consultant doctors to authorise an abortion.

Parliament foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman, Mohammed Al Sissi, said existing legislation must be updated.

“Weak and backdated legislation has to be removed and new up-to-date laws immediately introduced,” he said.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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