How We’re Improving Safe Abortion Access in Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, the law says you can have an abortion on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that, it’s still available but for ‘social reasons’ which need to be approved by medical professionals. Termination of pregnancy is allowed at any time where there is a medical necessity. On paper the law looks open. However, in reality those seeking abortion in Kyrgyzstan face a number of barriers and access is less clear.

Women in Kyrgyzstan face many barriers to safe abortion.

Access is obstructed by financial barriers. Even though the state should provide co-payment for abortion and support to those who need it, this information is often not shared with patients. Specialists who perform abortions continue to charge patients unofficially. Prices depend on the type of facility, term of pregnancy and the method. In government hospitals the cost is from $20 to $100 USD and in private clinics it’s at least double.

Women from rural villages have limited access to family planning services and abortion. This is because of the time and costs of travelling.

And on television, radio and other media the topic of abortion is practically absent. The stigma which women face in even discussing abortion can be a huge barrier.

Data on abortion in Kyrgyzstan is not reliable.

In Kyrgyzstan, 20,172 abortions were registered in 2019. Every year the number of abortions increases by 1.6%. This is most likely due to the steady decline in the proportion of women of reproductive age using contraception. It should be noted that official statistics cannot reflect the full picture of the abortion rate in the country. Private sector clinics deliberately under-count or hide the number of procedures performed, to underestimate the profit from abortion services.

We are working to improve the situation for women and girls in Kyrgyzstan.

In our own work, we have seen that there is a low level of knowledge about safe abortion, especially among rural women. There is also a limited supply of medications for medical abortion and a shortage of trained personnel.

In order to work towards solving these problems, KFPA began working with both women and providers of services and medications. In partnership with the Safe Abortion Action Fund, we have achieved significant results in six years of work.

We started by working with rural women, who were directly involved as community leaders. We managed to organize huge educational campaigns with rural women and high school girls. In addition, we created a referral system for women who want to receive safe abortion and contraception services. All health care providers in the pilot regions were trained. They became certified and ready to accept women who were referred by our volunteers.

One of our biggest achievements was to register the drug “Medabon” in the country. This is a combination pack of the two drugs typically used for safe medical abortion – mifepristone and misoprostol. We managed to register Medabon in six months. This has increased women’s choice and access to safe abortion methods in Kyrgyzstan.

The global pandemic has not stopped our work.

Due to COVID-19, we have experienced delays importing the newly registered drug Medabon. Thankfully it is finally available so we are making sure it is widely accessible.

We’ve also advised the government on updating the guidelines on abortion. Abortion can not be ‘postponed’. It needs to be recognized as an essential component of healthcare. During the pandemic, we have moved trainings and consultations online to make sure information about abortion services is still shared with those who need it.

Only through partnership will the accessibility and quality of safe abortion care be improved in Kyrgyzstan. The healthcare system, other government agencies, non-governmental organizations, the media, and women themselves need to work together.

KFPA is a grantee partner of the Safe Abortion Action Fund.