You are 23 years old. You are between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant but there is no joy. This is not a wanted pregnancy. It is the result of a brutal rape.
You are living in a foreign country and you don’t have a home. You fled your home because you were persecuted. Your physical and mental health are in tatters. You have lost 10 kilograms in the past month. You are desperate. You do not have access to appropriate medical care. You are reeling from trauma.
“We are suffering here. We suffer mentally, there is no life, not safe at all. I look at the sea and ask, can I die there.” Abyan wrote. “I cannot have a baby in this situation on Nauru. I am sick I am desperate.”
Can you imagine that? Any of that? Can you imagine yourself — or any young woman you know — being in that situation?
This is Abyan’s* reality. A woman living in the worst possible conditions, violated and then discarded by the country that should be protecting her.
If it was any other country, we’d be appalled. But it’s our own country. Australia is ignoring this woman. And it’s disgusting.
Abyan’s lawyer begged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this week for urgent assistance. To fly her to Australia so she can access a medical abortion, which is forbidden by the Nauruan government. This call has garnered 35,000 signatures in under 24 hours and silence from the government. The Prime Minister has referred the matter to the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who hasn’t been forthcoming with a response.
The Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called for an urgent response.
“This has gone on too long,” he said. “It’s time for Mr Turnbull and his Liberal Party to show some compassion. I’m genuinely stunned and surprised that the government is still refusing to act to help this young woman get the right medical care.”
The Refugee Action Coalition is similarly shocked.
“We are extremely worried about Abyan’s health,” Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said. “She is very sick and distressed and has been shamefully neglected by the Immigration Department, Nauru medical services and by Connect, the service providers on the island.”
An international health provider has overall responsibility for medical services for asylum seekers in Nauru, but it does not have that responsibility for those who are found to be refugees. Decisions regarding refugees, and whether they will be provided with care in Australia, are made by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Professor Caroline de Costa, an obstetrician and professor at James Cook University, says Abyan needs medical care as a matter of urgency.
“The earlier in pregnancy abortion is performed the safer it is. This woman who is under the care of the government of Australia should be transferred without delay to Australia, to a service where she can have appropriate consultation, examination and care from experienced and sympathetic professionals, an informed decision made by her, and termination of pregnancy performed if that is in fact her decision. She should also receive care appropriate for women following sexual assault. This is the standard of care we believe essential for women resident in Australia; it should also be provided for women supposedly under the protection of Australia.”