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Burma’s Ongoing Reproductive Health Disaster

What would your life be like if you were a young woman living in one of the longest-running conflicts in the world?  According to a new report from Ibis Reproductive Health, looking at the state of reproductive health of women living inside eastern Burma and those who’ve fled to Thailand, it’s likely that you would lack information about sex and family planning, be far more likely to become pregnant early, and have a high risk of being harmed from an unsafe abortion or dying in childbirth.

According to Dr. Angel Foster, DPhil, MD, of Ibis Reproductive Health and the University of Ottawa,

“Our report finds that millions of Burmese and ethnic minorities both inside Burma and along the Thai border have limited or no access to family planning, safe abortion, and general reproductive healthcare. The toll on women has been particularly severe. Negative effects include high numbers of unplanned pregnancies — and, consequently, high rates of maternal mortality and unsafe abortions. In fact, post-partum hemorrhage and unsafe abortion are the leading causes of maternal death and injury.”

Abortion is illegal in Burma unless a woman’s life is at risk and restricted in Thailand.  Lack of legal access combined with a lack of trained providers are fundamental causes of morbidity and mortality from abortion.

The absence of healthcare infrastructure inside eastern Burma, as well as for those Burmese living illegally as migrants in Thailand, has produced a kind of reproductive health “perfect storm.” Notes Foster, “Since denial ...

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