Nepal parliament ensures free abortion services for all women

On August 8th, the parliament of Nepal voted to approve its FY17 budget, which for the first time includes funding for safe abortion care. The funding ensures implementation of a key provision of a 2009 court decision guaranteeing access to services for all women of Nepal.

“This budget allocation represents a significant step forward in our government’s efforts to guarantee women’s reproductive rights and their ability to obtain fundamental health-care services”, said Hon. Arzu Rana Deuba, member of Parliament and member of Ipas’s global Board of Directors. “We in Parliament should feel proud that we have finally made this commitment a reality for the women and girls of Nepal.”

Safe abortion care has been available in Nepal since 2002, when a sweeping change to the criminal code recognized a broad range of women’s rights. The government program is a model for much of the world, offering hospital-based care in all 75 districts, and reaching even the most rural women through community-based care in 19 districts. In recent years the program has expanded to include second-trimester abortion in 25 hospitals, guaranteeing that women and girls at risk of dangerous unsafe procedures can obtain safe care. Although they represent a tiny proportion of abortions overall, abortions in the second trimester are associated with the highest rates of complications and deaths globally because safe services are so rarely available.

“Under the leadership of Dr. R.P. Bichha, director of the Family Health Division, Department of Health Services,  Ministry of Health, the safe abortion program of the government of Nepal as achieved more than we thought possible,” said Dirgha Raj Shrestha, Acting country director of Ipas Nepal. “Ensuring that services will now be free represents yet another step forward in support of women’s health in this country.”

Prior to 2002, 20 percent of women in prison were there for having terminated pregnancies under the country’s restrictive law and unsafe abortion was a major cause of maternal death.

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