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Alumni Dispatches: Catherine Cansino

Alumni Dispatches: Catherine Cansino

Catherine Cansino

MD, MPH '07

Reproductive Health Advocacy in Manila

In January 2008, my colleagues and I conducted an anonymous survey to assess the knowledge and practice of physicians who provide post-abortion care in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Approximately 79,000 Filipina women are hospitalized each year due to complications from illegally induced abortions. In May 2000, the Department of Health tried to reduce the individual and public health impact by issuing a policy on the Prevention and Management of Abortion and its Complications (PMAC). The policy requires medical institutions to provide post-abortion care to women, including those who attempted to self-induce. Limited research has been done to ensure that hospitals implement the policy.

One physician I spoke with explained that her views on reproductive rights changed after caring for countless women suffering complications from self-induced abortions. She took care of many women after unsafe abortions, induced either by uterine massage, insertion of catheters or sticks into the uterus, or ingestion of herbs and medicines obtained from street vendors. In many instances, she had to donate her humble salary to pay for intravenous fluids or blood transfusions to avoid seeing patients die under her care.

Abortion will not be legalized in the Philippines anytime soon. As a Filipina and a reproductive rights advocate, I plan to continue my advocacy efforts through research to ensure ethical implementation of the government's PMAC policy. Through our research, we hope to inform the medical and public health community about specific initiatives to improve the reproductive health of Filipinos.

Catherine Cansino is a family planning fellow in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

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