Cutting the cord

Around 158,000 women have undergone safe abortion through 176 government-approved healthcare facilities following the legalisation of the practice in Nepal in 2002. Yet the women undergoing the procedure are disproportionately urban. The reason, according to the Nepal Pregnant Women and Newborn Baby Service Society, is that the majority of rural womenfolk are still unaware of their right to abortion, or that such services are even available.

Now that it has been legalised, women, irrespective of their socio-economic and demographic status, should enjoy equal right to terminate their pregnencies should they choose to do so. But for this, they should also have an easy access to healthcare facilities providing abortion services. More importantly, rural women need to be made aware that they have the option of abortion open to them and it is they who have the final say in the matter, not their spouses or family members: Pregnancy of upto 12 weeks can be terminated with the consent of the woman concerned. The law should not be seen as discriminatory against rural women. If it is among women’s fundamental rights, all women should have equal access to it. The emphasis should be on mother’s safety during such procedures. It is no less important to ensure that unscrupulous medicos are not engaged in sex-selective abortions at the same time. Constant monitoring of abortion centres and tight laws are the order of the day.