Mon, 07 Jul 2003

'2m RI women have abortions each year'

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An estimated two million Indonesians have abortions each year, mainly through unsafe procedures, a researcher told an abortion seminar in Yogyakarta on Saturday.

State-owned Gadjah Mada University (UGM) social researcher Muhadjir Darwin said that women chose to put their lives in danger and break the law by terminating their pregnancies for a range of reasons, including being unmarried or for financial reasons.

Muhadjir, a staff member from UGM's center for population studies, was quoted by Antara as saying that two million abortions annually was 30 percent of the total pregnancy rate in Indonesia.

The world ratio was 25.6 percent, he said.

Data showed that most abortions involved single women, rape victims or married women whose contraception had failed, he said.

The majority of abortions were done by unskilled health workers in dirty conditions, which added to the death rate.

Muhadjir said the country's strict abortion regulations were obviously failing.

The status of abortion is currently before the House of Representatives.

Religious groups are against the idea to legalize abortion, saying that all humans, once able to live and grow, have the right to live.

Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take a more moderate stance, saying that women have the right to decide.

Under current law, abortion is allowed only if the pregnancy endangers a woman's life.

However, illegal practices of abortion remain, especially in major cities such as Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

Some surveys have shown an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies among Indonesian women, especially teenage girls.

"Either we admit or not, abortion is widely practiced in Indonesia as a birth control method," Muhadjir said.

He said times had to change.

"There is a need to change our legal stance to accommodate the need (of abortion) or we'll continue to put our women's lives on the line," he said.