Addressing Barriers to Safe Abortions

This July, statistics published for the Global Family Planning Summit revealed that every year over 20 million women have unsafe abortions worldwide. Yet, safe abortion remains a controversial topic at most international conventions, and over 25% of the world has highly restrictive laws on abortion.

To protest these restrictions, the International Consortium for Medical Abortions launched the International Campaign for Women’s Rights to Safe Abortions earlier this year. You can read more about it on our website, and sign up for it using this survey. All September, we hope to blog about the campaign, and highlight the effect of legal restrictions across Asia.

However, legal restrictions are not the only barriers to safe abortion in Asia. Factors like cultural and religious attitudes, stigma, the lack of access to information, a dearth of affordable medical facilities, and attitudes of policy makers and providers affect the access to safe abortions. Because of these factors, 40% of abortions are unsafe in Asia, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These rates are as high as 60 -65% in Central, Western and Southeastern regions.

This month, we plan to blog about the barriers to safe abortions across Asia, and discuss the unique set of issues in each country.

For example, countries like Iraq, Philippines and Oman have highly restrictive abortion laws. Turkey’s government is taking a step backward, and threatening to curb women’s rights to safe abortions. In Azerbaijan, religious heads of state want to draw restrictive policies on abortions. In Pakistan, studies show that attitudes towards unwanted pregnancies force 65% of the women to seek clandestine abortions.

Countries with fairly liberal laws have problems too. In Malaysia, cultural attitudes have curbed access to affordable abortions, and in India two-fifths of the abortions are still unsafe because of the lack of affordable services, stigma, and the lack of information.

But there are also stories of success. Nepal, where young girls were being imprisoned for abortions until 2002, now has a very liberal law and is providing quality service. Towards the end of this month, ASAP will be conducting a four-day workshop, where mid-level health care workers from Nepal will share their knowledge with their counterparts from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. We hope to share this information on our social media channels, and this blog as well.

Through out this month, we will also bring to you interviews with experts, and guest blogs from our contacts in ASAP’s member countries.

In the meantime, do read the detailed profiles of the legal and medical situation in each of our member countries. Hopefully, you will share these country profiles and help spread the information.

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About Shweta Krishnan

Shweta Krishnan was the Communication and Networking Officer For the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership between June 2012 and March 2014. She is a feminist writer with a background in medicine, and has a strong commitment to promoting sexual and reproductive rights for all.
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