Although abortion has been legal under broad criteria in Nepal since 2002, a significant proportion of women continue to obtain illegal, unsafe abortions, and no national estimates exist of the incidence of safe and unsafe abortions.
Data were collected in 2014 from a nationally representative sample of 386 facilities that provide legal abortions or postabortion care and a survey of 134 health professionals knowledgeable about abortion service provision. Facility caseloads and indirect estimation techniques were used to calculate the national and regional incidence of legal and illegal abortion. National and regional levels of abortion complications and unintended pregnancy were also estimated.
In 2014, women in Nepal had 323,100 abortions, of which 137,000 were legal, and 63,200 women were treated for abortion complications. The abortion rate was 42 per 1,000 women aged 15–49, and the abortion ratio was 56 per 100 live births. The abortion rate in the Central region (59 per 1,000) was substantially higher than the national average. Overall, 50% of pregnancies were unintended, and the unintended pregnancy rate was 68 per 1,000 women of reproductive age.
Despite legalization of abortion and expansion of services in Nepal, unsafe abortion is still common and exacts a heavy toll on women. Programs and policies to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, increase access to high-quality contraceptive care and expand safe abortion services are warranted.
Mahesh Puri is associate director and Anand Tamang is director, Center for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities, Kathmandu, Nepal. Susheela Singh is vice president for international research, Aparna Sundaram is senior research scientist, Rubina Hussain is senior research associate and Marjorie Crowell is senior research assistant—all at the Guttmacher Institute, New York.