More consensual sex among teenagers in Cambodia, not to mention a the alarming rise in rape of teenage females in the Kingdom, has made teen pregnancy an increasingly common reality. There are a number of organizations ready with resources to help, so why are so many young woman still resigned to accepting an unwanted future.
Whatever the result; woman can have a positive future
Sitting on a sofa in a living room of Marie Stopes clinic based in Chi Phou district of Svay Rieng province, Meas Soa Charkrya, 19, is waiting for a midwife while her friend sits by her side. It was about half past eleven Charkrya is hugging her friend with a look of worry on her face.
Charkrya got married when she was 16 years old and is now a little over a month pregnant.
“I’ve come here to get an abortion,” says Charkrya.
Teenage pregnancy in Cambodia is still a social problem as teenaged girls with unwanted pregnancies often seek abortions from unqualified clinics. This can cause very negative consequences such as sterilization or even death.
Before coming to Marie Stopes, Charkrya had tried to have an abortion at a private clinic in Bavet city, Svay Rieng province, but it did not turn out well.
“A doctor gave me abortion pills and then he asked me to take them by myself,” she said. “After taking it, I thought it was working well. However, a few days ago I felt unwell. I had a fever, and pain in womb, so I went back to see the doctor again,” she said.
She said the doctor told her that she had a big problem because some blood had remained in her womb for many days and she could face womb cancer if she didn’t cure it quickly.
“He could not help me and he asked me to go to the Marie Stopes clinic instead because they provide safe abortion services and the doctors are skillful,” she said.
The reason that forced Charkrya to have an abortion, she said, was an argument with her husband that broke out when she found out that he was with another woman.
“I was very afraid, but I had no choice because I wouldn’t be able to feed my baby once it was born,” she said.
The Marie Stopes clinic, in Chi Phou district, Svay Rieng province, has been established for over six months and it provides many services such as counseling, safe abortion, family planning and outreach education for reproductive health.
Marie Stopes is an international organization that has been working closely with health care services in Cambodia since 1998. Now, there are seven clinics in the Kingdom.
In 2009, the organisations work contributed to the prevention of 51,963 un-planned pregnancies in Cambodia. Assuming these children followed national averages, 2,217 infant deaths and 2,871 deaths of children under 5 were prevented. Marie Stopes’s work on safe abortion averted 4,705 unsafe abortions and prevented 171 maternal deaths.
Prum Thorn, a midwife for Marie Stopes in Chi Phou district, said that on average there are seven customers per day coming to her clinic, which also facilitates 19 abortions per month.
Because patients occasionally lie about their age out of embarrassment, she said specific figures on how many of them were underage would be difficult to say.
There cost depends on the stage of the pregnancy: from 0 to 7 weeks costs 60,000 riel and seven to twelve weeks costs 80,000 riel. If customers bring a referral client card, Marie Stopes will give them a discount of 2,000 riel.
However, before having an abortion, the young women must meet with a midwife, such as Prum Thorn.
“I do counseling with clients because abortions can be damaging to a mother’s health”, she said.
Chip Hou health centre is one of Marie Stopes’s partners in providing family planning and health care services to Cambodian women.
Brak Sambath, president of the Chi Phou health centre, said that his team focuses on always facilitating a safe abortion, and always has doctors consult with patients first, as is the law in Cambodia.
“I tell my customers about how to take care of themselves during and after the abortion,” he said,” adding that the procedure costs between 30,000 and 50,000 riel at his clinic.
He added that going to unlicensed private clinics can be dangerous for the woman because of conditions of the operation and because they are often willing to do an abortion after 9 weeks of pregnancy.
“Doing unsafe abortions can cause vaginal discharge, pelvic inflammation, bleeding, or even womb cancer which can cause a woman to die,” he said.
Leap Sovann, 44, a doctor of the clinic Arun Rah, which has been established for 10 months, said that people come to his clinic for quality service and safe abortions. He noted that many of the women who come to his clinic are around 19 or 20 years old.
Paou Linar, head of child and maternal care of Phnom Penh, said that the Ministry of Health is now focused on reducing the risk to both mothers and babies during abortions and pregnancies in cooperation with NGOs and private clinics.
“The ministry of health always checks private clinics to make sure they have a license and are providing safe abortions,” he said. “We want to enforce the ban on unsafe abortion services,” he said.
He added that people who most often have unsafe abortions are young teenagers in secondary school, high school and university students, who are shy and afraid of going to well-known and well-run clinics.
Now, “the reproductive health for youth programme educates them,” he said.
Marie Stopes Cambodia
Telephone: 023 994 082