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Reprod Health Matters. 2012 Dec;20(40):166-74. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(12)40652-8.

Misoprostol and the politics of abortion in Sri Lanka.

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Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


Misoprostol, a WHO essential medicine indicated for labour induction, management of miscarriage and post-partum haemorrhage, as well as for induced abortion and treatment of post-abortion complications, came up for registration in Sri Lanka in December 2010. The decision on registration was postponed, indefinitely. This has wide-ranging implications, as misoprostol is widely available and used, including by health professionals in Sri Lanka, without guidance or training in its use. This paper attempts to situate the failure to register misoprostol within the broader context of unsafe abortion, drawing on data from interviews with physicians and health policymakers in Sri Lanka. It demonstrates how personal opposition to abortion infiltrates policy decisions and prevents the issue of unsafe abortion being resolved. Any move to reform abortion law and policy in Sri Lanka will require a concerted effort, spearheaded by civil society. Women and communities affected by the consequences of unsafe abortion need to be involved in these efforts. Regardless of the law, women will access abortion services if they need them, and providers will provide them. Decriminalizing abortion and registering abortion medications will make provision of abortion services safer, less expensive and more equitable.

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