Rights activists call for making abortion free of cost, safe

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Oct 16, 2016-

Women rights activists have called on the government to improve women’s access to safe abortion and make the process free of cost. 

The call follows a survey report by the Women Rehabilitation Centre (Worec), which showed unsafe abortion results in 20-27 percent of maternal deaths in hospitals in the country. 

Abortion is legally permitted in Nepal since 2002 during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or up to 18 weeks in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation or when the woman’s life is endangered. The government introduced a comprehensive abortion policy the following year. But safe abortion still remains a far cry for many women. 

 “Even though abortion was legalised in the country 14 years ago, women have been suffering from serious health hazards and even losing lives due to lack of safe abortion facility. Legalising abortion alone has not worked; now we must concentrate on ensuring that women get access to safe abortion,” said Durga Sob, president of Sankalpa, a network of around a dozen women right organisations. 

The constitution has also enshrined reproductive health right as fundamental rights of women. The government in its 2015-16 budget had announced free abortion service, but it is yet to start. 

Currently, the Ministry of Health (MoH) is preparing a guideline to implement free of cost abortion service. 

According to Dr RP Bichha, chief of Family Health Division at MoH, the government has allocated Rs 32 million in the fiscal year 2016-17 for starting free abortion services. Economic constraints, lack of awareness and stigma associated with abortion have been major factors hindering women from seeking abortion service. 

A report by World Health Organisation published in 2012 states that annually 47,000 women worldwide die due to unsafe abortion. Out of this, 98 percent of fatalities take place in developing countries. 

Women’s access to information and services such as contraception and sex education are also equally important aspects, say experts. 

Only one in three women are aware that abortion is legal in the country, and only one in two know where the service is available, states a report by the Centre for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities. 

“Providing free abortion service is the duty of the state that has legalised abortion. It will also help save hundreds of lives, especially of those from low-income groups living in remote areas,” said advocate Sabin Shrestha. 

Fast facts

-    A survey report by the Women Rehabilitation Centre (Worec), which showed unsafe abortion results in 20-27 percent of maternal deaths in hospitals in the country 

-    Abortion is legally permitted in Nepal since 2002 

-    Between 1996 and 2006, Nepal nearly halved its maternal mortality rate (MMR) from 539 deaths per 100,000 live births to 281, according to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS)-2011. The improvement in maternal health was largely attributed to the move to legalise abortion. A 2012 UN report estimated the 2010 MMR at 170

-     A report by World Health Organisation published in 2012 states that annually 47,000 women worldwide die due to unsafe abortion. Out of this, 98 percent of fatalities take place in developing countries

 

Legalised

Abortion was legalised in Nepal in 2002 during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or up to 18 weeks in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation or when the woman’s life is endangered

Published: 16-10-2016 08:08

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