HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Not long ago, a woman suspected of undergoing abortion could be jailed and about 50 per cent of gynaecological admissions in hospital were due to backstreet abortions.
However, with legalisation of safe abortion in 2002, not a single woman prisoner has been accused of abortion and unsafe abortions are significantly down.
Dr Silu Aryal, focal person of safe abortion programme at Family Health Division under the Health Ministry said legalisation of abortion has dramatically reduced mortality. “A decade of legalisation of safe abortion has saved the lives of thousands of women,” said Aryal.
Till date, 500,000 women have received legal abortion services and the rate of complications has been low. This has contributed to significant decrease in maternal death.
There are more than 500 public and private clinics and 1,322 service providers have been trained. The abortion costs less that Rs 1,000.
Abortion, upon request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, was legalised through an amendment to Nepal Civil Code. The amendment allowed abortion if the mother’s life was in danger; in cases of rape and incest, pregnancy up to 18 weeks could be terminated with the rider that such abortions be carried out at hospitals or clinics run by health ministry certified doctors.
Although we have expanded our services nationwide, we are still recording cases of unsafe abortion, said Dr Aryal.
According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2006, around 24 out of 1,000 pregnancies are aborted in Nepal. A UNICEF and government study estimated that 20 per cent of all pregnancy deaths in 2000 were due to unsafe abortion. A three-month survey conducted by the international reproductive health organisation Ipas, an NGO, in 2008 showed legal abortions are safe and less than two per cent of women out of 7,007 who were tracked, suffered post-abortion complications of low to moderate severity.
Dr Indira Basnett, director, Ipas, said safe abortion has helped reduce maternal mortality. She said investment in safe abortion alongside a number of other safe motherhood strategies helped Nepal nearly halve the rate at which women die from pregnancy-related complications.
In 2010, the UN appreciated the government’s commitment and progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal- 5, reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015.
“Nepali women exercising right to abort is still a significant challenge. Nepal’s experience in providing high-quality safe abortion service can offer important lessons for other countries,” said Basnett.