From Base to Summit: Abortion Law Reform in Nepal
Upreti, Melissa, Women in Action
Once notoriously known for having one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, Nepal has now become one of the most liberal in handling the issue of abortion. Given the decades of subjecting women with unwanted pregnancies into the harshest conditions, the legal reform on abortion constitutes one of the most important footholds for Nepalese women in the post-democracy era.
In 2002, abortion was legalised on demand in the first trimester and on grounds of rape and incest during the first 18 weeks. The procedure is also allowed any time during a pregnancy in case of a fetal impairment or when the mother's life is in danger.
The previous law declared either causing or procuring the termination of a pregnancy to be an illegal and punishable act. While it contained an exception for terminations performed in pursuit of acts of "benevolence" (1) this exception remained ineffectual on account of its vagueness. In fact, these provisions resulted in an almost complete ban on abortion in practice.
These long-standing legal sanctions on abortion had developed the stigmatisation of the procedure and those involved in it. They led to the innumerable procedures done underground and incalculable social cost. The ban had a devastating impact on women's health and human rights.
Prior to the amendment, unsafe abortion accounted for up to 50 per cent of all maternal deaths. (2) Complications from unsafe abortion accounted for almost 60 per cent of all hospital admissions involving women. (3) Aside from maternal deaths, routine sentencing and imprisonment of women for allegedly undergoing abortion procedures happened. Many were also charged with the more serious crime of …
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Publication information: Article title: From Base to Summit: Abortion Law Reform in Nepal. Contributors: Upreti, Melissa - Author. Magazine title: Women in Action. Issue: 1 Publication date: April 2008. Page number: 20+. © 2008 Isis International. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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