The number of state health facilities providing safe abortions shot up by almost 50 percent last year, according to the 2016 annual Ministry of Health report. In all, 246 safe abortion providers were added last year.
During a presentation held yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Sofitel Hotel, Minister of Health Mom Bun Heng touted the move as a step towards providing sexual and reproductive health care to all women.
“The situation of maternal and child health was good in 2016, and the Ministry of Health in 2017 will plan to take good care of mothers and children so that they are safe during delivery, and so that women can have safe abortions,” Heng said, adding that the ministry will continue to open new facilities and expand services throughout the country.
Still, officials were quick to point out that the number of abortions has declined. In 2015, there were 21,541 recorded abortions provided in Cambodia. That number dropped to 12,250 last year.
The provinces with the most recorded abortions were Kampot, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Takeo, along with Phnom Penh.
Prak Sophonary, deputy di-rector of the ministry’s Maternal and Child Health Centre, refused to comment on the reason for the substantial drop. The report simply states that more women opted not to have an abortion so that they could become mothers.
The report also described a move away from homebirths, as the majority of women opted to deliver their babies in health centres. There were 316,177 births recorded last year. Of those births, 164,447 took place in a health centre, 133,170 in a referral hospital and 18,500 at home.
The number of women delivering with the help of a midwife dropped from 2,472 in 2015 to 1,846 in 2016.
Chem Samnang, a traditional midwife, said that she sees more women going to hospitals for services like childbirth and abortion, which were previously carried out at home.
“Nowadays, mothers and pregnant women have more knowledge about pregnancy. They want to be safe so they go to the hospital,” she said.
Last year saw a slight increase in the number of miscarriages, however. There were 9,578 in 2016, compared to 9,081 the year before.