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A Topic For Conversation: Abortion Law in Sri Lanka

By: Uadaya Sivakumar

Emerge Lanka Financial Officer

According to the UN publication “World Abortion Policies 2011”, abortion is allowed in most countries in order to save a woman’s life (97% of countries). Other commonly accepted reasons are preserving physical (67%) or mental health (63%). Abortion in the case of rape or incest is accepted in about half of all countries (49%), and performing them because of economic or social reasons in about a third (34%). Performing an abortion only on the basis of a woman’s request is allowed in 29% of all countries. In some countries, additional procedures must be followed before the abortion can be carried out, even if the basic grounds for it are fulfilled.

Sri Lanka is the one among those countries. Its existing abortion law allows abortions only when pregnancy or childbirth is life threatening to the mother. Many people aren’t aware of the existing law, and some of them aren’t due to social and cultural barriers, because of these reasons we have approximately 9%-12% teenage mothers, with the highest dead during childbirth.

After years of hard work by many women organizations/networks, Sri Lanka’s abortion law is to be amended allowing abortions under strict conditions. Once implemented, the suggested reforms will allow abortion for girls under the age of 18 who have become pregnant due to rape or incest and for mothers carrying babies with severe genetic abnormalities. The Child Development and Women’s Affairs Ministry, Health Ministry and Justice Ministry have formed a committee to implement amendments to the existing law. Two specialist doctors will conduct medical tests and the reports will be sent to the courts. The court will make the decision within 3 months after examining the reports. Pregnant women who belong to the above-mentioned categories will be able to apply for legal abortion once the amendments are incorporated with current law.

Yet, this amendment is still under process, as religion leaders, and many Sri Lankans may oppose this amendment due to social and cultural forms. But, we must understand that this is not an open license to abort unborn embryos. By allowing this under strict conditions, it’s giving consideration to the wellbeing of the women concerned. Special consideration will be given to women who are raped. It is obvious that they cannot face society and have to undergo severe mental strain throughout their lives “Besides, children with genetic abnormalities are a burden on the parents as well as to the society. Both parents and those children suffer throughout their lives.”

Women and media collective currently taking a poll with regard to this amendment. I have copied that poll you all to review. Minister of Women’s Affairs has proposed to legalize abortions in cases of rape of underage girls, incest and defective foetuses. What are your views?

Excellent proposal: 47.73% Step in the right direction but what about adult women? 47.73% Bad proposal that is derogatory to our country’s culture, religions, morals, etc. 2.27%

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