Abortion in Pacific Cultures

There were three presentations at the conference on attitudes and practices towards abortion in the Pacific. Two were by a Pacific woman working in South Auckland and a Pacific woman working at AMAC. A third presentation was by a New Zealander working at the Marie Stopes clinic in Fiji.

Both the Pacific women referred to how the veil of secrecy surrounding anything to do with sex contributes to the increasing rates of abortion in young Pacific women. Denial, a lack of understanding about contraception and sexual health and an unwillingness to talk about sex result in young Pacific women being very vulnerable. The power and control of the church is also a major factor.

In Fiji where abortion is illegal unsafe abortion practices are rife. Public debate on the issue is yet to happen. Prosecutions have been brought but not guilty verdicts returned.

Because of the vague framework that abortion operates in, traditional methods of trying to terminate a pregnancy are still in use today. They include various herbal concoctions, inserting a cassava stem up into the uterus, stomach massages using the feet, and witch doctor remedies. All are unsafe, and sometimes result in the death of the woman. In this kind of environment women are vulnerable to exploitation and to unsafe practices some of which result in botched abortions.