CAMBODIA – As stigma wanes, (safe) abortions rise

More Cambodians seem to be accepting the idea of safe abortion despite the social stigma, according to Marie Stopes Cambodia. The prevalence of abortion increased among women aged 15-49 from 5% in 2010 to 7% in 2014, based on the Cambodia Demographic Health Survey. The influx of female migrant workers from rural areas to the capital Phnom Penh is a major reason for the rising numbers. When women from different provinces come to the capital to work in factories and get pregnant unexpectedly, they may choose abortion for a range of reasons.

Medical abortion with pills up to nine weeks and aspiration abortion up to 12 weeks are legal in Cambodia, and second trimester also on grounds of risk to health or life, rape, and serious fetal anomaly.

Stigma still exists, however, especially if the women is unmarried. In some cases, women continue with their pregnancy, then abandon the newborn hoping other people will find and take care of them instead. Sex workers have abortions as they would lose their work otherwise.

MSI Cambodia provide sex and reproductive education in different areas in Cambodia, especially in schools where the teachers are not comfortable tackling the subject.

The Women’s Resource Center provides workshops for young girls about safe abortions, to give them wider knowledge about abortion while they are young and to let them know about the risks of unsafe abortion using what locals call a “deep massage”. Women experiencing depression due to unplanned pregnancy are encouraged to contact relevant organisations for help through chatting apps and Facebook.

SOURCE: Khmer Times, by Rhea Mae Soco, 1 December 2020 + PHOTO by Pann Rachana/KT