Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepali physicians have come out against the exponential rise in abortions and are threatening to go on strike if the government does not take action.
According to Health Ministry data, more than 95,000 abortions were performed between April 2010 and April 2011. In 25 per cent of the cases, the patient was under 18 years of age.
On average, 65 abortions are carried out every day. And the number is rising. Between 2007 and 2008, about 51,000 women had an abortion, a figure that jumped to almost 89,000 between 2009 and 2010 89.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Bhola Rijal, a gynecologist and a former head of the medical association, said that "the increase in abortions is causing a public health disaster in the country. For this reason, we decided to oppose all forms of abortion."
For the physician, many recent graduates in medicine see the operation as a source of income, with no moral or ethical implication.
"We're trying," he explained, "to train as many doctors as possible to stop this tragic trend. We want the government to enact stricter laws and permit abortion only in cases of serious danger to the mother's life."
The most frequent cases of voluntary abortions involved the Hindu community and the country's rural areas, where women often suffer violence or are abandoned by their husbands or partners after they get pregnant.
"More and more teenagers resort to abortion," said Chanda Karki, a gynecologist at a major hospital in Kathmandu. "In our clinics, we get girls under the age of 13. Although so young, some of them are already on their second abortion. So we decided not to offer this operation except when lives are at risk. "
Praveen Mishara, secretary of the Ministry of Health, admits that "there is an abuse of abortion in Nepal. Our managers are doing everything possible to curb this phenomenon, which is reaching alarming proportions."
Abortion has been legal In Nepal since 2002 for cases in which there is a risk to the health of the woman or the child, in cases of rape or if the woman is mentally unsound. Selective or forced abortion is illegal.
As a way to fight poverty, many foreign non-governmental organisations have spread the culture of contraception and voluntary sterilisation in rural areas.
Since 2006, at least one in 10 women has had an abortion or used abortion pills and contraceptives. Between 2001 to 2006, the fertility rate dropped from 4.1 to 3.3.