The case of a botched abortion that led to the death of 40-year-old Khem Tha was back in front of a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge yesterday, more than two years after the original trial ended without a verdict.
Se Borei, 38, the midwife who allegedly performed the abortion that led to Tha’s death from a resulting infection, is being tried in absentia, judge Duch Kimsan said, adding that her whereabouts are unknown.
Under the 1997 law that legalised abortion in Cambodia, doctors causing a woman’s death during the procedure can face five to 10 years in jail. Hiv Leng, 50, the victim’s husband, said his wife was continuing to bleed five days after having the abortion in June 2010; he is demanding $30,000 in compensation.
He said that Borei charged him 100,000 riel ($25) for the abortion, but when his wife died, she gave him $2,000 and asked him not to press charges. The case is being retried after a March 2010 trial ended with no resolution, prompting intervention by the Ministry of Justice and Appeal Court.
At the earlier trial, defence witness Ou Sokkheang, a doctor specialising in women’s health, suggested the victim performed the abortion on herself. According to the Cambodian Demographic Health Survey 2010, 32.8 per cent of all abortions were self-induced, used traditional methods or were carried out by unsafe providers.
“Abortion has been legal in Cambodia since 1997 when performed by providers trained by government standards,” said Stefanie Wallach, country director for Marie Stopes International. “Many women don’t know it is legal, so they seek unsafe abortions.”