Self-managed abortions in Cambodia

The theme for this year’s International Safe Abortion Day was self-managed abortion. For many women, teleabortion and remote abortion services are a helpful way to manage an abortion in the comfort of their own home. 

But for others, surgical abortion in a clinic offers more privacy. At MSI Cambodia, doctors can provide abortion services up to 12 weeks’ gestation. The clinics offer both surgical or medical abortions, as well as a range of contraception and sexual and reproductive health services. 

Sthada is a doctor at MSI Siem Reap. “For medical abortion, we check the age of the clients’ pregnancy and their uterus beforehand, so that we can determine whether or not they can receive the service medically. 

“Another way we decide is based on how far their house is from our clinic, so that it’s easy for us to see how we can provide emergency services should they need it.” 

Medical abortion services in Cambodia involves taking one oral pill, and four pills inserted vaginally. Clients who use this service may experience minor fever or nausea. If they are concerned, they can access emergency help from our clinics. 

But many women accessing services at MSI in Cambodia prefer to choose surgical abortion. “It’s much faster and less bleeding, and our clients feel it gives them more privacy as they don’t have to carry any abortion-related materials after leaving our clinics,” said Sthada. 

“Another reason why they choose surgical abortion is because of the distance between our clinic and their home. Some of them are too busy at work and don’t have time to take pills [and wait for them to have an effect].” 

Despite abortion being legal in Cambodia up to 12 weeks’ gestation, there is still stigma about seeking abortion services. 

“Some clients are afraid of being humiliated or embarrassed when seeking an  abortion service, because they are unmarried or still studying. Some feel embarrassed after getting the service a few times,” said Sthada. 

“That’s why they might try to buy pills on their own at random places or seeking unsafe abortion service secretly provided by untrained or unprofessional individual, which then becomes very life-threatening.” 

Based on data from 2010–2014, approximately 45% of all abortions worldwide were unsafe. Restricting access to safe abortion services greatly increases the risk of women dying or being disabled from unsafe abortions.  

Each year between 4.7% – 13.2% of maternal deaths around the world can be attributed to unsafe abortion. 

MSI Cambodia are working hard to provide safe, private and sensitive abortion services to women. 

“[Our clients] have a legal right to seek our services, as long as their pregnancy is less than 12 weeks, and we provide our service with full professional ethics,” said Sdatha. 

“I want all of you to know that if you ever wish to get safe abortion services, please don’t feel embarrassed or shy.”