Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Report: many don’t know abortion legal

Report: many don’t know abortion legal

A nurse practitioner explains family planning options to a patient during a counselling session at the Marie Stopes Chbar Ampov Clinic in Phnom Penh in 2013.
A nurse practitioner explains family planning options to a patient during a counselling session at the Marie Stopes Chbar Ampov Clinic in Phnom Penh in 2013. Kara Fox

Report: many don’t know abortion legal

Many women in Cambodia remain unaware that abortion is legal, pushing them into pursuing cheap and unsafe practices, according to a new study that also found some medical professionals held the same false belief.

Published in the journal Global Public Health, the study, Abortion politics in Cambodia: Social history, local forms and transnational issues said widespread religious beliefs contributed to the idea abortions were wrong.

“Contraceptive prevalence remains quite low in Cambodia and various studies document that abortive practices use may be among the highest in South East Asia,” author Pascale Hancart-Petitet wrote in an email. “The main issue is that many women think that it is illegal.”

Despite abortion being legal since 1997, caregivers were often not aware of the legal specifics, it said. “In fact, I don’t know whether abortion service is illegal or not,” the study quotes a midwife at an NGO as saying.

“Normally in the public hospital if . . . you have a disease that can’t let you keep the baby, then the hospital staff will perform an abortion to save your life,” the midwife said. “On the contrary if you’re healthy and you go to the public hospital to seek an abortion, then they won’t do it for you.”

A doctor performs a gynecological examination on a patient.
A doctor performs a gynecological examination on a patient Athena Zelandonii

During the yearslong study, Hancart-Petitet found many women induced their own abortions or sought unsafe ones despite a plethora of contraceptive options.

“The process of searching for and obtaining high-quality abortion care was unnecessarily complicated and costly for women and families in urban areas,” Hancart-Petitet wrote, with surgical abortions in public institutions costing up to $30, and private clinics charging up to $150. That compares to as little as $5 by an untrained provider, where corroded scissors and clamps were common and the same kit was often re-used.

Further, the idea of “taking a life” could lead Buddhists to shun the practice – though some women interviewed said “the bad sin would fall on the abortion provider herself, as ‘She takes many lives for money’.”

Gender academic Kasumi Nakagawa said from her own research the reason that many women in Cambodia decided not to have abortions when they had unwanted pregnancies came down to their religious beliefs and patriarchic social norms.

“Patriarchal society in Cambodia also regards women’s main role as to ‘reproduce’, thereby abortion is contrary to male-dominated society’s morality,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 foreigners in Cambodia, the bulk being from the UK, have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly them out of the Kingdom. The petition is targeted at 15,000 foreigners. Among them are nearly 200 Europeans, the majority

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation

  • NBC’s directive to restructure credit targeting four sectors

    The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) on Friday issued a directive to all banks and financial institutions to restructure credit for loans in four priority sectors, a move lauded by the private sector. The directive aims to maintain financial stability, support economic activity and ease