Gap in provision of reproductive health services

AZRUL Mohd Khalib’s letter on the need to address health issues in the national budget has rightly pointed out the dire consequences for women experiencing unplanned and unwanted pregnancies regardless of age, “Taking charge of health” (The Star, Sept 22; online at

This includes teens still in school, women nearing menopause and those who are struggling to feed a large family.

Many studies on the incidence of planned vs unplanned pregnancies show that almost 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, and studies on outcomes for the latter group indicate half of them terminate their pregnancies.

An indirect estimate of the number of abortions in Malaysia by Prof Tey Nai Peng, medical statistician for the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), suggests it is approximately 100,000 annually.

However, this much needed service receives scant attention from the Health Ministry and LPPKN. Abortions are rarely provided by government hospitals unless the pregnancy poses a physical threat to a woman’s life.

Many women are forced to scout around for a doctor or clinic willing to provide safe abortions at reasonable cost. Stigma and lack of transparency have led to some abortion-related procedures being done at exorbitant fees.

At the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM), we believe women should not have to face such obstacles when dealing with unwanted pregnancies.

RRAAM was started 12 years ago by women’s rights activists, and has built up a national network of sympathetic providers of safe abortion. We disseminate reproductive health information via our website ( and a hotline (018-368 7950) to link both men and women to service providers throughout Malaysia.

We believe the Health as well as Women, Family and Community Development ministries and clinics such as LPPKN are well placed to recognise this gap in the provision of reproductive health services for women. These services should be provided from the aspect of women’s health and to promote gender equality under Cedaw (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) principles.


Founder of RRAAM and past co-chair

Kuala Lumpur

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