In March 2002, the Parliament of Nepal enacted landmark legislation granting women broad legal access to abortion. Lawmakers took this historic step in response to evidence of the detrimental effect of the previous restrictive abortion law on women’s health and rights, demands for reform from civil society, and in the context of a national effort to reduce maternal mortality.
After passage of the law and a period of comprehensive planning, the Government of Nepal (GoN) began working with local and international development partners to introduce and scale up safe legal abortion, with strong positive results. Safe abortion services began in 2004, and since then, more than 830,300 women have obtained high-quality, comprehensive abortion care. The majority of women also received contraceptive counseling and services to prevent subsequent unintended pregnancies. Greater accessibility of these critical services has helped avert maternal deaths and prevent unsafe abortion, while producing significant savings in health-care costs. Provision of comprehensive abortion care (CAC) has likely also contributed to the recent dramatic reduction in Nepal’s maternal mortality ratio, from 539 deaths per 100,000 live births estimated in 1996 to 190 deaths per 100,000 births estimated in 2014.