Women are rushing to the state-run Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu after the government introduced a medical service for safe abortions in March. More than 20 women between the ages of 20-30 years have already arrived. We are finding it difficult to provide services for so many women, says Yasobardhan Pradhan, director of the family health unit at the hospital.
The government introduced an abortion law in 2002 giving women the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies. So far, only the Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu is authorised to carry out the procedure. The government is planning to set up abortion units in all five regions and at teaching hospitals around the country. They need a separate licence to set up abortion services and gynaecologists must undergo special training.
Nepal is among the five countries with the highest record of maternal mortality, 20 percent of which are due to unsafe abortions. Even though it is illegal to carry out the procedure in any clinic other than a designated hospital, estimates put the number of abortions in Nepal at 57,000 annually. The Maternity Hospital has been trying to tell women when abortion is legally and medically possible.