The number of abortions performed in 2014 increased nearly 51 per cent from the year before, according to the Ministry of Health.
A report released March 9 showed that the total number of miscarriages and abortions for the year were up by more than 4,000 cases from 2013, bringing the total number to over 18,000. But while the number of women who miscarried only increased slightly (from 8,013 in 2013 to 8,827 in 2014), the number of abortions performed spiked significantly, to almost 10,000, compared with 6,497 just one year prior.
The numbers were culled from government health care centres and hospitals as well as private clinics.
The reason behind the rise in abortions is unknown but being investigated, Tung Rathavy, director of the National Maternal Child Health Center (NMCHC), said yesterday.
But safety is the overriding concern for the centre.
“We want women to turn to safe services in legal places,” she said, adding that she hoped more women would utilise preventative contraception.
“We do not want the abortion rate to go up more.”
Rathavy also noted that the Ministry of Health and the NMCHC has been working to train officials about safe abortion procedures and educate women about their sexual health and legal right to seek an abortion.
While first trimester abortions were legalised in 1997, as recently as 2013, 80 per cent of women in the Kingdom believed abortions were illegal, according to a study by Marie Stopes International and US-based health and technology startup InSTEDD.
Lack of abortion education has led many women to remain in the dark about their rights, which has historically led them to DIY abortion techniques and midwives who lack proper training. In 2006, the Post reported that nearly 32,000 women had required medical attention due to botched abortions.
“We noticed that there are many private clinics without legal permission, which are dangerous for abortions,” said Chhorn Sokuntheary, head of the women and children rights unit at Adhoc. She believes female students and garment workers are the groups most at risk for unwanted pregnancy.
In Cambodia, an abortion that results in chronic disability or death is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.