Forum to discuss mortality and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortions
In Sri Lanka, women do not have access to legal abortion except under life-saving circumstances. Abortion is generally illegal in Sri Lanka under the Penal Code of 1883 and provides that anyone voluntarily causing a woman with child to miscarry is subject to up to three years’ imprisonment and/or payment of a fine, unless the miscarriage was caused in good faith in order to save the life of the mother. A woman who induces her own miscarriage is subject to the same penalties.
The strict criminalization of abortion or termination of pregnancies except to save the life of a mother as contained in the Penal Code of Sri Lanka has been identified as detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of the woman.
A draft bill that will legalize abortion in instances of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities awaits parliamentary approval, amid opposition. This amendment to the current Law related to abortion is an issue that FPA Sri Lanka has been tirelessly advocating for since 2011.
Ending mortality and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortions is both a public health and human rights imperative. As such, FPA Sri Lanka hosted an important forum today, the 9th of August 2018 to discuss the issue on Mortality and Morbidity as a result of unsafe abortions in Sri Lanka.
The audience comprised different stakeholders; Parliamentarians, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, NGO's, activists, doctors, lawyers, and youth.
The keynote presentation was made by Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, the former President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and the British Medical Association (BMA). In November 2012, Prof. Arulkumaran was appointed by Health Services Ireland as the Chair of a panel of inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar due to the complications of a septic miscarriage. The inquiry and the recommendations of the Arulkumaran Committee played a key role in the recent relaxation of the laws on abortion in Ireland following a historic referendum. He was appointed Knight Bachelor by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth in June 2009, in recognition of his services to Medicine and Health Care.
The Forum was also addressed by Prof. Wilfred Perera, Past President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, Past President of the Sri Lanka College Obstetricians & Gynecologists and Ms Ermiza Tegal, an attorney at law, practicing for the past 11 years mainly in the areas of fundamental rights, family law and domestic violence. Her advocacy work focuses on legal and social exclusion in areas of women rights. She has undertaken research into domestic violence and assessment of counselling practices in Sri Lanka.
The discussion was moderated by Justice Shiranee Tilakawardane, former Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.