Safe Abortion in Indonesia?
Looking at the Government and the DPR

Maidina Rahmawati
Maidina Rahmawati Researcher at the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR)

Jakarta, IO – According to Bearak (2020), the incidence of unintended pregnancies from 2015 to 2019 reached 121 million per year. This figure shows that 64 unsaved pregnancies are occurring in every 1,000 women aged 15-49. In general, when compared to the data from previous periods, the pregnancy rate has not declined since 1990-1994. We can interpret this data to reveal that there are 73.3 million abortions annually, equivalent to 39 abortions per 1,000 women in the 15-49 age group (Bearak: 2020). From this figure, it can also be calculated that three out of ten pregnancies will be terminated by an abortion. (WHO:2021) 

Research published in 2014 details the maternal mortality rate (MMR) from 2003 to 2012, and reports that 7.9% of maternal mortality is attributable to unsafe abortions, with an estimated value range from 4.7~13.2% Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), equivalent to 193,000 pregnancies (Say: 2014). However, data on the actual causes of MMR resulting from unsafe abortions fail to describe actual conditions, because the problem cannot be reported: abortion is still considered a crime in Indonesia. When abortions are carried out in accordance with the law, cultural and religious perceptions still tend to inhibit reporting. The leading causes of death from these “back-alley” abortions are bleeding, infection, sepsis, genital trauma and bowel necrosis (B. Haddad:2019). 

Few studies have emphasized the need for safe abortion in Indonesia. This is no surprise, considering the illegality of the procedure or promoting it. Currently, abortion is only allowed in strictly defined circumstances. Only two studies try to display the estimated abortion rate of 1000 women per year in Indonesia. In 2000, based on research conducted in six regions across Indonesia, it was estimated that there were 37 abortions for every 1000 women 15-49 years of age (Guttmacher Institute: 2008). Abortions were on average carried out on women aged 20-29 years (46%), mostly married (66%) (Guttmacher Institute: 2008). A 2018 study for inhabitants of the island of Java reported 42.5 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-49 years (Giorgio, M. M,, 2020). This level is higher than the global abortion rate of 39/1000 women (WHO: 2020).