Unsafe abortions put mothers' lives at risk in Sri Lanka
Abortion is legally permitted in Sri Lanka in cases where it could save the life of the mother. However, in a recent study only 10% of people surveyed were aware of the legal provision that allows abortion where it could save the life of the mother.
Among the people who were aware of the provision, 11% did not agree to such legal provision.
The research, published in Ceylon Medical Journal, which is available online on the Sri Lanka Journals Online (SLJOL) platform supported by INASP, was based on interviews with 743 people aged 19 to 49 years from 50 households to assess their knowledge and attitudes towards induced abortion.
According to the study, most of the population supported legalizing abortion in cases such as pregnancy due to rape (65%), incest (55%) and where there are lethal fetal abnormalities (53%).
“However, as per the available research shows, the practice in general is quite different from their perceptions. The majority of the residents in Colombo city are not aware of the legal status of abortion in Sri Lanka. They are not even aware how dangerous abortion can be. They just use it as a means of birth-control to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy," says M.S. Suranga, the lead author of the article.
"That is the reason that 90% of the total abortions [in Sri Lanka] are done by mothers in their second pregnancies, mostly married," Suranga continues. "Usually, they want to get rid of the foetus to maintain spacing between the first child and second child, for economic reasons, to pursue higher education and to focus on their career, etc."
Previous studies have shown this situation to be highly damaging in terms of maternal health as well as the national economy of Sri Lanka.
“As per the findings of our research, legalization of abortion for soft reasons (bad economic conditions, contraceptive failures, on-demand, etc) may create social unrest and cultural issues. Although the society rejects abortion for these soft reasons, my study shows that the majority are in favour of allowing abortions for rape, incest and foetuses with lethal abnormalities. In view of the public acceptance, the government may consider legalizing induced abortion for rape, incest and when the fetus has lethal abnormalities,” Suranga suggests.
For more information see: Suranga, M.S., Silva, K.T. & Senanayake, L., (2016). Perception on the abortion laws in Sri Lanka: A community based study in the city of Colombo. Ceylon Medical Journal 61(4), pp.171–175.
About the Journal
The Ceylon Medical Journal (CMJ) is published by Sri Lanka Medical Association, one of the oldest medical associations in the Asian region. It is the oldest surviving medical journal in Australasia.
Sri Lanka Journals Online (SLJOL), a part of INASP's Journals Online, is a database of journals published in Sri Lanka, covering the full range of academic disciplines. The objective of SLJOL is to give greater visibility to the participating journals and to the research they convey. It is managed by the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka and was developed in collaboration with INASP.
There are now 75 journals on SLJOL listing over 8500 articles.
Founded in 1992, INASP is an international development organization working with a global network of partners in Africa, Latin America and Asia. In line with the vision of research and knowledge at the heart of development, INASP works to support individuals and institutions to produce, share and use research and knowledge, which can transform lives.
INASP’s approaches are based on the core pillars of capacity development, convening, influencing and working in partnership. INASP promotes equity by actively addressing the needs of both men and women across all our work and addressing issues of power within the research and knowledge system. INASP has projects in 28 countries, supporting all aspects of research and knowledge systems, from facilitating the provision of information to researchers to helping parliamentarians and civil servants to use research and evidence in policy making.
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For further information
Thakur Amgai, Communications Consultant, INASP
Dr Sangita Shrestha, Communications Officer, INASP