Nepali women's ignorance about their right to a safe abortion is contributing to at least half of all pregnancy-related deaths in Nepal where the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. The Centre for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities (CREHPA) says in their new report that a large number of Nepali women are still unaware of their right to terminate a pregnancy although the bill to legalise abortion was passed by parliament in March 2002. It also said fewer women than men were aware of the abortion bill but a greater number of those surveyed supported abortion.
The law permits women to abort a foetus during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if her life or health is in danger and in cases of rape, incest and foetal impairment. Before abortion became legal, conviction on abortion charges meant long years of incarceration since abortion was considered the same as infanticide. Most women were sentenced to 20 years, denied legal representation and accused of other violations. CREHPA said lack of awareness has dire consequences for women who, fearing arrest, opt for unsafe but anonymous abortions that lead to health complications and often, death.
The opinion poll conducted by CREHPA in 10 major cities from all over Nepal interviewed about 50,000 people in the 18-30 age group.