Critics have charged a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative with providing the “menstrual regulation” abortion method in countries where abortion is otherwise illegal.
Menstrual regulation, also known as "menstrual extraction," is used by women who missed their regular menstrual period and suspect that they are pregnant but cannot or do not want to wait for the results of a pregnancy test. If the woman is pregnant at the time the menstrual extraction is performed, an abortion results. The evidence of an abortion is either destroyed during the procedure or is easily disposed of, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reports.
Since there may not be a pregnancy to terminate, menstrual regulation is sometimes available in countries that prohibit abortion. The procedure is sometimes regarded as a cross between “foresight abortion” and “hindsight abortion.”
Bangladesh has allowed the procedure since the 1970s, establishing it as an “interim method of establishing non-pregnancy” for a woman who could become pregnant.
A fund of $2.73 million has been established for Bangladesh with funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation in partnership with the government of Bangladesh and other non-governmental organizations. It will support projects over a four-year period starting this year.
Officials say the initiative will help Bangladesh achieve Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters.
Bangladesh’s maternal mortality rate is decreasing but is still one of the highest in the world. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that an estimated 370,000 of the 2.5 million Bangladesh women who become pregnant each year develop fetal complications beyond the capacities and equipment of the health facilities in the country.
Initiative proponents claim the decreasing mortality rate can be attributed to increased family planning services, including menstrual regulation. They argue making the abortion procedure available reduces maternal deaths and reduces the likelihood a mother would try to procure an unsafe abortion.
Critics say the menstrual regulation will not make deliveries any safer.
According to UNICEF, lack of access to emergency obstetric care, lack of skilled birth attendants, and maternal malnutrition are the primary causes of maternal death in Bangladesh, not unsafe abortion. Half of Bangladeshi women of reproductive age are underweight, and in 2001 only 11.8 percent of deliveries were assisted by qualified medical personnel.