Journal Article

Legal but limited? Abortion service availability and readiness assessment in Nepal

The government of Nepal revised its law in 2002 to allow women to terminate a pregnancy up to 12 weeks gestation for any indication on request, and up to 18 weeks if certain conditions are met. We evaluated the readiness of facilities in Nepal to provide three abortion services, manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), medication abortion (MA) and post-abortion care (PAC), using the service availability and readiness assessment (SARA) framework. The framework consists broadly of three domains; service availability, general service readiness and service readiness specific to individual services (i.e. service-specific readiness). We applied the framework to data from the Nepal Health Facility Survey 2015, a nationally representative survey of 992 health facilities. Overall, we find that access to safe abortion remains limited in Nepal. Of the facilities that reported offering delivery services and were thus eligible to provide safe abortion services, 44.5, 36.0 and 25.6% had provided any MVA, MA or PAC services, respectively, in the 3 months prior to the survey, and <2% were ‘ready’ to provide any abortion service based on our application of the SARA criteria for service-specific readiness. Among only the facilities that reported providing an abortion service in the 3 months prior to the survey, 3.2% of facilities that provided MVA, 1.5% of facilities that provided MA and 1.1% of the facilities that provided PAC had all the components of care required. Although the private sector conducted approximately half of all abortion services provided in the 3 months prior to the survey, no private sector facilities had all the abortion service-specific readiness components. Results suggest that accessing safe abortion services remains a significant challenge for Nepalese women, despite a set of permissive laws.