Abortion can result in legal prosecution of both the woman concerned and those assisting in the act.
As a result, “less than 10% of abortions were carried out by authorised medical workers, while the remaining 90% were conducted using unsafe procedures,” Ramona Sari, an activist with the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association said.
The Department of Health has also come up with alarming statistics. “Our office has estimated the number of abortions at between 2 and 2.4 million cases annually,” said Azrul Azwar, director general for community health at the health ministry.
Rate of abortion
According to Muhadjir Darwin, a social researcher at the state-owned Gadjah Mada University, this number is 30% of the rate of pregnancy in Indonesia. The corresponding world abortion-pregnancy ratio is 25.6%.
Family planning was popularised in Indonesia by former President Suharto in the early 80s. However, according to the Central Statistic Agency (BPS) birth control has lost its popularity among Indonesian youth.
There has been a drop in number
There has been a 22.24% drop in the number of women who used contraception compared to 1997.
“Contraception failure has been one of the main reasons for unwanted pregnancies leading to abortion,” Azrul Azwar said.
Financial constraints as well as premarital sex among teenagers are also key reasons for driving women to abortion.
“I already have three daughters and I don’t know how I could support another one,” said Mimi (also not her real name), 24, about her reasons for having an abortion. Mimi has been married for six years and after her husband lost his job during the economic crisis, she became the sole wage earner in the family.
“I had an abortion two years ago because at the time my boyfriend and I were both still in school and I just couldn’t tell my parents about it,” Tammy (not her real name), 20, said.
“This shows the moral degradation in our society and our failure to prevent it,” said Din Syamsuddin, secretary general of the Indonesian Ulemas Council.
“It is considered haram (forbidden) by religion to have an abortion,” Syamsuddin said. “We can only tolerate it in emergency cases to save the life of the mother,” he added.
The process itself takes less than two hours after which the patient is sent home with a pack of anti-inflammatory analgesic and antibiotic medicine.
“It was really like going to a slaughter house,” Mimi told Aljazeera on her experience in an illegal clinic in Jakarta. “They didn’t ask my name or any details whatsoever. You just have to give the money and walk in,” she said.
“I was lucky that everything went fine. Some women I met in the clinic experienced heavy bleeding.”
“Despite the risk involved in unsafe procedures, we are not able to persuade women otherwise,” said Azrul Azwar, who also chairs the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA).
The death rate due to illegal abortions is estimated at 11.1%.
The House of Representatives is debating a change in the law governing abortions. “The ministry has begun to rewrite the law making abortion legal for health reason,” Azwar said.
So far, all religious groups have opposed the proposed change in the law.
“We are against the idea of legalising abortion,” said Syamsuddin, who is also the deputy chairperson of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia. “Legalising abortion has more negative implications than advantages,” Syamsuddin said.