Access and Barriers

Do Legal Professionals in Malaysia Believe Abortion Is A Woman’s Right?

Induced abortion in Malaysia is permitted under specific conditions. Both 1st and 2nd Trimester abortion services are available right up to 22 weeks gestation. The methods most commonly used as D&E and hysterotomy. The traditional ‘Jamu’ (herbal remedies) and ‘Urut’ (massage) are used more often in rural areas. The cost of abortion varies from US$80 to US$800 depending on gestation size, ambulatory or in patient. Though pregnancies through incest and rape are on the rise, both these conditions are not specified under the law.

Information on the incidence of abortion in Malaysia is not readily available. The abortions to live births ratio is estimated to range anywhere from 1:3 to 1:5. The induced abortion ratios per 100 pregnancies reportedly more than doubled in the first decade of the 21st century, with ratios in urban areas three times as high as in rural areas.

Different agencies make different interpretations of the law. The law allows abortions to be performed by a registered medical practitioner done in good faith, i.e. done with the woman’s consent to save her life or to prevent adverse effects on her physical or mental health. Even if it is done without her consent and she dies, Section 92 specifies that it is not criminal act if there is a bona fide intention of the service provider was to benefit the woman. No qualified medical practitioner has ever been prosecuted for an uncomplicated termination of pregnancy till date in Malaysia.

On the other hand, pre-marital sexual activity of young is not recognised and young people are not even included in national demographic and health surveys. This is despite the fact that the National Population and Family Development Board’s survey among secondary school students showed that more than a fifth of them knew of friends who had illegitimate pregnancies and a tenth had friends who had undergone abortions. The sexually active young or unmarried people are often unable to obtain contraceptives from government and NGO services of the national family programme.

In 2008, ASAP planned a multi-country study that went beyond the community- provider interface and explored the views of gatekeepers such as lawmakers and implementers who are outside the service provision field. The findings from the interviews with legal professionals in Malaysia are presented against the overview of the abortion statistics and the legal context of abortion in the country.

Abortion Trends:

Majority 19 (76%) of the lawyers indicated they know of some laws pertaining to abortion in the country and about half of them indicated awareness of the clauses and conditions permitting abortion. Ten respondents mentioned that abortions are permitted Malaysia to save the life of the mother, and nine said it was permitted to “avoid negative effects on the woman’s physical health”.
About a fourth said that abortion is allowed in case of rape or foetal abnormalities.Of those who were aware, half of them had come to know about these laws during their law education, while the rest learnt about these laws during the course of their professional practice. Only 4 lawyers said that they had heard of the international agreements relating to the issue of women’s access to reproductive health services including abortion and three of them specifically mentioned CEDAW.


malaysian womenWomen themselves in a study have endorsed conditions hitherto not included in the law. In the national fertility and family survey 71 per cent of the women supported abortion on the grounds of rape or incest; 54 per cent if the woman was unmarried, 52 per cent for health reasons and 35 per cent for economic and social reasons. There are attempts to address the deterrants to safe abortion services to women in Malaysia. A meeting was convened by state authorities concerned with the implications of the present abortion laws on doctors and patients in June 2005, with representatives from the Malaysian Medical Association and Attorney General’s
Office. The meeting concluded that the present laws provided sufficient protection for doctors who perform terminations of pregnancy in good faith and therefore further amendments were not required.

Reproductive Rights Advocacy Group Malaysia (RRAAM), a coalition of NGOs and individuals (doctors, lawyers, academics, women’s rights activists etc.) concerned about the status of contraceptive and abortion services in the country has taken up the challenge to create awareness about women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health in line with CEDAW principles. The initiative by RRAAM will have to be supported by the policies, programmes and field level services for the realization of the intent of the agreements to which the Government of Malaysia has been a signatory.

Read The Complete Paper here:

%d bloggers like this: