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Awareness of legal abortion lacking: study

Less than 20 percent of some 1,680 women surveyed across rural areas in six provinces said they knew abortion is legal in Cambodia, according to figures in a report released during a conference in Phnom Penh yesterday.

The study, released by Options Reduction in Maternal Mortality Project, finds that 72.5 percent of respondents thought abortion was illegal, despite the fact that it was legalised more than a decade ago, in 1997.

A further 9 percent said they did not know whether or not termination of pregnancy was legal, and 18.5 percent answered that it was legal.

Elizabeth Lavoisier, an independent consultant who was a team leader for the study, said yesterday that women in remote areas were not receiving accurate abortion information from authorities.

“It is at the community level and at the health centres and hospitals that they should be advised about that,” she said.

“But not all the health workers at the health centres know that abortion is legal.”

She noted that there was a significant difference in awareness levels in areas where the RMMP, a joint project with the National Reproductive Health Program that was introduced  in 2006, had been implemented.

The report shows that 30 percent of women in RMMP areas knew that abortion was legal, compared to 7 percent in areas where the project had not been implemented.

“The main finding of the report was that programme works,” she said. “There is better knowledge on abortion and more use of contraception in areas where Options has programmes.”

Tung Ruvuthy, manager of the National Reproductive Health Program, also said more dissemination of information about abortion was needed.

“Healthcare providers need to be trained carefully not only how to provide abortion but also to provide the right information, respect women’s rights and their right to choose,” she said.

“We have trained a lot but we need more resources and budget to train more people and raise more awareness.”

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