Mon, 01 Aug 1994

Relaxation of ban against abortion urged

JAKARTA (JP): A medical expert proposes that Indonesia relax its ban against abortion in the case of embryos known to have abnormalities.

Lastiko Bramantyo of the School of Medicine at the University of Indonesia said doctors at present cannot recommend abortions of abnormal fetuses because there is no legal basis for it.

"I think abortion should be allowed in this case. If not, then we will bear the burden of having abnormal children," Lastiko told a seminar on children's health held by the Ministry of Health on Saturday.

Lastiko said poor prenatal treatment is common in Indonesia and this is one of the causes of abnormalities in children.

He said people's negative perception of modern medical treatment, an unhealthy environment, poor health services and poverty affect the condition of children and mothers in Indonesia.

He said many villagers are still not comfortable with midwives or doctors, preferring to be treated by traditional birth assistants. He said the negative perception of rural women towards physicians makes them reluctant to see doctors even when they are pregnant.

More than 20 percent of pregnant women in the country never go to doctors or clinics. And 38 percent go to clinics only four times during the nine months of their pregnancies, he said.


Lastiko said poor health services are not the monopoly of state hospitals or clinics, but also luxurious private hospitals, especially where the tetanus vaccination and "rooming-in" policy are concerned.

The "rooming in" policy requires every hospital to put a newborn in the same room with its mother. However, a number of private hospitals put newborns in a separate room to make treatment easier.

The Ministry of Health's Secretary General Hidayat Hardjoprawito said when opening the seminar that infant and maternal mortality rates in Indonesia are still among the highest in the world.

At present, for every 1,000 births, 42 of the mothers die. The number of infants who die is a staggering 63 for every 1,000 births. The government is aiming to reduce these rates to 22 and 42 respectively within the next five years.

To achieve this, the government is pursuing a number of efforts, including giving iron and iodine tablets, as well as tetanus injections, to pregnant women, promoting at least four medical examinations during pregnancy and sending at least one bidan desa (village midwife) to every rural settlement.

Hidayat said, however, the best way to reduce the mortality of mothers and children is through family planning, which has proven to be effective in reducing the mortality rates by 30 percent. (11)