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June 18, 2021

Poor access to safe abortions is killing South

By News report

LONDON: One in every four maternal deaths around the world happens in South Asia. Lack of access to safe and legal abortions and contraceptives is a leading reason for the region’s high maternal mortality rate. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than half the abortions in South and Central Asia were safe, foreign media reported.

In Bhutan, which has a 1.4 percent case fatality rate, one of the main reasons for maternal mortality is abortion complications. Section 146 of Bhutan’s Penal Code legalizes abortion only if it is to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy resulted from incest and rape or the mother is not of sound mental condition. Denied access to safe abortion, many Bhutanese women cross the border to neighboring India, where abortion, while legal on most grounds, remains dangerous. India’s new abortion law expands access to abortion by raising the gestation limit for abortion from 20 to 24 weeks and removing marital status as a limitation for abortion. Yet the law continues to deny women’s agency and leaves the final say to the doctors. Nepal is the only South Asian country to allow women access to abortion on request.

Even in Nepal and India, the two countries with comparatively liberal abortion laws in South Asia, access to safe and legal abortion remains limited and the implementation of these laws has largely undermined their impact. Obstacles to access safe abortion include difficulty finding providers, substandard conditions in health facilities, lack of awareness of the legal status of abortion, and fear of stigmatization.