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Since 2001 a group of NGOs led by the Indonesian Women’s Health Foundation (YKP) has lobbied the Indonesian government for reform of arcane and confused laws related to abortion. They are motivated by concern about reproductive health rights, and specifically the need to prevent the thousands of deaths associated with septic abortions each year. They were able to persuade a majority of political parties to support their efforts in 2004, and in the dying days of Megawati Sukarnoputri’s presidency, they gained parliamentary approval for a draft amendment to the health law that would have made abortion both safer and more easily available.

To the surprise of activists the amendment was not signed by the outgoing president, and thus lapsed when Susilo Bambang Yudoyono came to power in late 2004. Finding themselves back at square one, the NGOs and their allies in the DPR (People’s Representative Council) brought the amendment back to the legislature in 2005, but found that the politics of the situation had changed dramatically. Islamist politicians who had accepted the earlier change suddenly announced that they were opposed to abortion, and would now fight the amendment. Over the life of the 2004-09 DPR, amendments to the health law and particularly the clauses related to abortion made little progress, to the frustration of both the YKP and their DPR allies. The story of why this legal quagmire persists says a lot about the nature of democratic reform in Indonesia, and about the prospects for efforts to improve the status and health of women.

What does seem likely is that traditional healers, uncertified medical personnel and individual women will continue to use dangerous methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Clause 194 stipulates that those caught doing so will be subject to a one billion rupiah (A$130,000) fine and a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Were that to be applied rigorously to the one million or so cases of abortion each year the legal system would never be able to cope with the trials, or the punishments. The reformed Health Law has again failed to protect or serve the women of Indonesia.

Read more @ http://www.insideindonesia.org/content/view/1237/47/

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