Working towards making Sri Lankan healthcare service providers abortion friendly

The police have descended on a large scale abortion clinic, which had been providing abortion services for years in Colombo 3. The number of abortions performed at this place per day is nearly one hundred”.

This headline featured in a local newspaper shows that abortions do take place even though it is illegal in Sri Lanka and even when the standard of surgical practices and the quality of services are highly susceptible.

A research journal by N. Talagala on ‘Unsafe Abortion in Sri Lanka – Facts & Risks profile’ shows an unmet need of family planning is a reason for 73% of unsafe abortions. Further the findings say that over 84% of women knew undergoing unsafe abortions could lead to serious life threatening conditions. 92% of unsafe abortions were performed surgically, mostly in unhygienic and by unqualified service providers. The findings express that even when women are aware about potential complications and poor quality of service it has not prevented women from going in for illegal and unsafe abortion service providers.

Aren’t’ the government, policy makers, doctors and service providers responsible for ensuring that women get safe abortion services? The numbers of illegal abortion centers indicate the immense need for abortion friendly services but Sri Lanka has not taken necessary steps in changing the laws and ensuring the reproductive health services for women and girls for years.

A research was conducted in 1986 to evaluate the views of Doctors and medical students who support change in abortion law in favor of terminating pregnancies due to genetic defects. Only 87% of Doctors and 80% of medical students support termination pregnancy only in cases of genetic defect and 93% of Doctors and 81% of medical students accepted that abortion as an appropriate solution in cases of genetic defect.

For women to realize their sexual and reproductive rights truly its important that they have access to safe abortion services and safe abortion is adopted within the comprehensive health services. In order to change these numbers a larger change in attitude of government and providers is needed; it’s is important for Sri Lankan Doctors, medical students and service providers to adopt a abortion friendly rights based approach that respects women’s choices. Such an outlook needs to be inculcated from very young age, through CSE a child can be groomed with values that treat different genders with respect, respect bodily rights and choices. The syllabuses of primary, secondary and higher education needs to be gender sensitive and developed with right-based approach. Government and policy makers need to realize the vital need of changes in abortion law. Until Sri Lanka addresses such issues and provide quality, accessible and affordable reproductive services and information, women won’t be able to exercise their reproductive rights freely.

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