ASAP At Katmandu: an Introduction to Task Shifting
This month, mark your calendars: September 28 is the International Day for the Decriminalization of Abortions. In that week, all nations will come together to demand for women’s rights to safe and legal abortions. ASAP has exciting events planned: a tweetathon on the 28th, and testimonials from providers and advocates across Asia.
But this week, we’d like to take you to the heart of a small, mountainous Asian country: Nepal. Ten years ago, abortion was criminal in Nepal. But high maternal mortality rates turned the government around and now, Nepal has one of the most liberal laws for first trimester terminations: all women who need the services are provided both medical and surgical care under 12 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of their reasons, or their marital status. Up to 18 weeks, abortions are available in case of rape, incest, fetal anomalies, or to preserve the health of the mother. More importantly, Nepal’s law allows trained nurses and midwives to provide comprehensive abortion care (CAC) through the Manual Vacuum Aspiration method, and medical abortion pills up to 8 weeks of pregnancy.
This “task shifting” has done wonders for Nepal, and lightened the setbacks created by its harsh geography. Thanks to these trained mid-level providers, women across the country have access to basic health care; antenatal care; birthing, family planning and safe abortion services at health posts and sub health-posts that punctuate the remote regions of the mountainous country. The WHO and the IMA have endorsed the need for task shifting.