New Fact Sheet Examines Sri Lanka Abortion Laws, Policies and Practices

Although the country criminalizes abortion, it is available clandestinely—and unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal deaths.

July 11, 2024
Center for Reproductive Rights

Abortion in Sri Lanka is illegal except for the purpose of saving the life of the mother—resulting in unsafe abortions that place the health of pregnant people at risk. Despite those dangers, repeated attempts to amend Sri Lanka’s abortion laws have failed.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and its partner, the Centre for Equality and Justice (CEJ), recently developed a fact sheet examining Sri Lanka’s abortion laws, policies and practices and the impact of the current legal-policy framework on women and girls. It also outlines recommendations for reforming laws and policies to improve access to care.


Gov minister highlights abortion rights, sex-ed for children, and Sri Lanka men killing their women

Monday December 4, 2023

Sri Lanka’s legislators have politicized the topics of rape and violence without addressing the elephant in the room, Jeevan Thondaman, Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development said in parliament on Monday (4).

“All the members here are talking about rape. What happens after that? We must talk about abortion rights. That is not something anyone wants to touch on, and that is why we are in this place right now,” Thondaman said.


Sri Lanka – Better family planning and counselling needed to reduce unsafe abortions: Local study

Dec 20, 2021
BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

Until the laws for the legalisation of abortion for more conditions are enacted in Sri Lanka, family planning services and counselling should be offered especially in pre-marital, pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy periods in order to reduce the number of unsafe abortions.

This recommendation was made in an original article on “Abortion and its legalisation: An overview of the opinion of doctors in the Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila” which was authored by ….


Poor Access to Safe Abortions Is Killing South Asian Women

Even in countries where abortion is legal, access to safe abortions remains challenging

By Bansari Kamdar
June 15, 2021

One in every four maternal deaths around the world happens in South Asia. Lack of access to safe and legal abortions and contraceptives is a leading reason for the region’s high maternal mortality rate. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than half the abortions in South and Central Asia were safe.

In Bhutan, which has a 1.4 percent case fatality rate, one of the main reasons for maternal mortality is abortion complications. Section 146 of Bhutan’s Penal Code legalizes abortion only if it is to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy resulted from incest and rape or the mother is not of sound mental condition. Denied access to safe abortion, many Bhutanese women cross the border to neighboring India, where abortion, while legal on most grounds, remains dangerous.


Sri Lanka’s backstreet abortions: hundreds of women take daily risks with illegal terminations

Sri Lanka’s abortion laws are among the world's most restrictive, yet hundreds of women risk their lives every day with illegal terminations

By Meghan Davidson Ladly

5 August 2020

In an unassuming house in the Sri Lankan city of Negombo, Achala is bravely
breaking a taboo. With poise and calm the 36-year-old is talking about her
abortion, three years previously. While she is hardly alone in terminating a
pregnancy, few Sri Lankan women are willing to openly discuss their experiences
in a country where the issue remains legally and culturally off limits. 

Sri Lanka’s abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the world and
attempts at legal reform are held up in parliament. Yet every day hundreds of
women are thought to obtain illegal abortions, risking their lives and
long-term health.


Sri Lanka – FPA unveils book on sexual and reproductive health

FPA unveils book on sexual and reproductive health

Monday, 16 December 2019

The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPA Sri Lanka), the foremost Sri Lankan non-governmental organisation which deals with issues concerning family planning, sexual and reproductive health and welfare in the country, launched a book titled ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health Research in Sri Lanka: Current Status, Challenges and Directions (2010-2019)’ on 13 December at the FPA Sri Lanka Auditorium.

This is a milestone publication for FPA Sri Lanka, a prominent member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in South Asia as it has been a long-term institutional objective. It includes selected landmark abstracts presented and published by FPA Sri Lanka in national and international journals and conferences for the period 2010-2019. In addition, it also compiles several review articles by proficient authors with competence and experience in multifarious subject areas such as sexual and reproductive health, demography and sociology. A focus on data and evidence is particularly useful as it helps fill a void besides giving a much-needed fillip to evidence-based programming and service delivery.


Abortion – Where is Sri Lanka On The Spectrum?

Abortion – Where is Sri Lanka On The Spectrum?
“If you are not in favour of legal abortion, then you are in favour of illegal abortion” - Prof. Arulkumaran

Saira Meyler
on 09/02/2018

On October 28, 2012, Savita Halappanavar, a young Indian dentist, died in Ireland due to a septic miscarriage. This created major uproar in Ireland because she had requested an abortion at an earlier stage in the pregnancy but was denied her request because the medical team did not judge her life to be in danger (the law in Ireland was that an abortion could only be granted if the mother’s life was at risk). The campaign that followed culminated in a referendum in Ireland earlier this year, where nearly two in three Irish voters opted to change the current law. The referendum also saw the highest turnout for a ballot on social issues. The amendment that is currently being discussed will allow for terminations in the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, and up to 24 weeks for exceptional circumstances.

In November 2012, former President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, was appointed by the Ireland Health Services as the Chair of a panel inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar. Arulkumaran recently visited Sri Lanka, and on August 9 spoke at a discussion on unsafe abortions, organised by the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka.


Catholic women’s group calls to legalize abortion in Sri Lanka

Catholic women's group calls to legalize abortion in Sri Lanka
Church demands govt dismiss bill to de-outlaw terminations in cases of rape, fetal impairment that threaten women's lives
Catholic women's group calls to legalize abortion in Sri Lanka

March 16, 2018

Some Catholic laywomen and doctors in Sri Lanka are demanding changes to the country's legal framework as they push to decriminalise abortion in the face of heavy opposition from local bishops.

The Feminist Catholic Network (FCN) recently signed a petition in support of proposed legal amendments that want to expand on current provisions in cases of rape, incest and serious fetal impairment.


Sri Lankan Women Too Scared to Seek Legal Post-Abortion Care

Sri Lankan Women Too Scared to Seek Legal Post-Abortion Care
Abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Sri Lanka, but it’s perfectly legal for women to seek help after complications from backstreet abortions. Still, the fear of stigma and discrimination prevents many from coming forward.

Written by Sophie Cousins
Published on Dec. 11, 2017

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – When Pabita* met her boyfriend, she thought he was the one. He told her he loved her and she dreamed of their marriage, one where her parents, who no longer live in Sri Lanka, would come home for the celebration.

She thought nothing of it when he jokingly pulled her into the water at the beach on the outskirts of Colombo last August, and told her she could get changed into fresh dry clothes at a nearby hotel.


Sri Lanka: Revisiting the debate on abortion law

Revisiting the debate on abortion law
Meera Srinivasan
October 07, 2017

In August this year, Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved a draft Bill allowing abortion under two circumstances — when the foetus is diagnosed with a lethal congenital malformation or when the pregnancy is caused by rape.

Seen by many as a potentially significant reform to the country’s existing law, which permits abortion only to save a woman’s life, the move sparked a spontaneous debate.

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