Challenges and barriers to accessing safe abortion services in Nepal
Mahesh Puri (Nepal)
Center for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities (CREHPA), Kusunti, Lalitpur, P.O. Box 9626, Kathmandu, Nepal
Abortion was broadly legalized in Nepal in 2002, and the policy implemented in 2004. Before legalization, abortion was treated as a criminal offence resulting in the imprisonment of women. Law and provision of services are necessary but not sufficient to guarantee access. The legal reform has certainly created a new paradigm requiring the framing of right-based polices and programmes by the government to be implemented in collaboration with non-governmental organisations and donors. Universal access to information and safe abortion services has the potential to significantly reduce the country's maternal mortality and morbidity. This paper examines the post legalisation challenges and barriers to accessing safe abortion services in Nepal. There are many obstacles those must be overcome before Nepalese women will be able to exercise their rights. Some of the major barriers and challenges are lack of knowledge about the law especially among rural women, inadequate access to safe and legal services, low economic status and high abortion fee, poor supportive environment including societal, cultural and religious attitudes, including stigma and not supportive attitude of rural men for women’s absolute rights to abortion and sex selective abortion. Due to all of these reasons, unsafe abortion continues to prevail in the country despite the four years of safe abortion service expansion. The prevention of unsafe abortion practices in the country and creating enabling environment for women and couples to access legal and safe abortion services as outlined in the safe abortion service procedure are daunting task and requires strategic interventions.