An inconvenient truth

Last week, on the 8th of July, Bhutan Today reported that the Phuentsholing hospital received four post abortion complication cases in just one month. All the abortions had been performed across the border, in Jaigon. All four cases were life-threatening.

This week, on the 14th of July, Kuensel reported that a young woman died in Phuentsholing hospital from post abortion complications. The abortion had been performed on the 11th of July, in Jaigon, just three days after the Bhutan Today article.

Many of our women have lost their lives attempting abortions. Many, many more have suffered life-threatening complications caused by abortions. And countless others have undergone the trauma of abortions in dangerous clinics across our border.

The media have done a remarkable job informing the public about the reality of abortions, especially about abortions that go wrong. But still, the subject is taboo.

We know what’s happening. But we chose to ignore the truth.

This cannot continue. We must talk about it. This conversation will, no doubt, be uncomfortable, even difficult. But for the sake of our women – for the sake of our sisters and our daughters – we must accept what’s going on. And we must look for solutions.

What do you think?

Should we legalize abortion? Or should we explore other solutions? Please give me your views. And please take the poll.


Facebook Comments:


  1. Legalize Abortion since there is no other solution to such a situation, I too rather go for abortion then the social stigma that awaits, atleast we can save these women.

  2. Abortion issue is discussed widely in several countries and no satisfactory solution is put in place yet. For example, pro life activists especially in catholic dominated societies vehemently oppose abortion; and politicians can lose job if you go against such vocal anti-abortion forces. But on the other hand, there are groups who argue that abortion should be left to the affected individual choice.

    The question is: when is the right stage to undergo abortion?. Technically speaking, life is formed moment when an egg is fertilized: but there are varying opinions arguing that at this early fertilized stage life is not fully formed as there are no limb, arms, organs, or brain developed although potential for all these organs to develop is already seeded. Therefore, it is OK to abort fertilized egg at very early stage of development.

    My own opinion is this:

    1. Discuss the issue in the parliament and see whether any legal measures (for or against abortion) could be arrived at.
    2. Hold public consultation to gauge public feelings regarding the issue–for this, it is important to include sentiments of religious institutions and bodies
    3. Launch awareness campaign on safe sex methods; I think this could prevent lot of unnecessary hassles later on.


  3. It is very sad to note such unpleasant developments in the land of pursuing Happiness.

    Poverty and social stigma are the two main causes of illicit sexual practices and risky abortions. The soultion to it in my opinion are;
    1) Legalise prostitution with safety measures like regular check-ups and condoms,
    2) Women’s Association, RENEW, etc. with support from UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF step up awareness and education including societal indescrimination of the fatherless child and the mother,
    3) MoLHR prioritize employment of women,
    4) Raise further the child compensation (Sothue), and
    5) Very importantly the Census Law must be changed to recognize citizenship of the fatherless children.

  4. pem tshering says

    Like all knowledge, begin with sex education in schools, institues, and all other places where we find the ‘active population’ living together. education alone will go a long way in making the people understand about the wonderful joy of having sex and safe sex, if, we do not want to have a child in the first place.

  5. I believe there are few ways to prevent such things happenig.
    -Mass awareness on undergoing such risky operation
    – women who undergo such steps are normally from lower soico economic group so where are the government and civil socities failing?
    – I do not believe in leaglising abortion but people should have the choice to keep or not before three months of pregnency
    -Where is the big UN organistions so quiet about such issues ( UNICEF and UNESCO should be ashamed such things are happening) more than the UN what about our NCWC and local NGOs what are they doing to tackel such issues.
    -media should bring out this issue more frequently can have open debates and spur politions etc on their role and what they are doing to help ,.

    I would like to conculed as a women of Bhutan there is a need to advocate for policy change and better support for the women who are facing such issues in their lives.
    Yours sicerely

  6. I dont think abortion should be legalized.
    if you do not want a child there are lots of family plaaning methods available that you can adopt. and i have no comments about the illegal abortions because you should have thought about it in the first place before getting involved with some person

  7. Wangmo it is easy for you to say, and life is not always peaches and cream. Family planning methods might be available, but women go through abortions due to lots of other reasons. Please show some compassion, not everyone is perfect like you.

    I think abortion should be legalized but only up to 24 weeks or less. Right now poor women of Bhutan are subjected to unsafe abortion in Jaigoan, where a butcher carries out the procedure. I also ask our OL, what we can do about Dolma Medical, that names keeps on popping up whenever we hear about such terrible cases.

    I have nothing much to say other than, please legalise abortion and save our women. If you think about it, not only would it save lives, but also reduces cost of health care in our country if we legalise abortion. We don’t have to deal with post abortion complications like right now.

  8. A very pressing issue indeed! I feel we should look for alternative solutions and do a deeper study on how legal conditions alone could avoid abortion related deaths in the country before considering such measures. Nepal would be one good example to study to find out how legalizing abortions have had an impact on safe abortions as they made it legal in 2002-the outcomes did not necessarily turn out as it hoped for as per some study. I am not in to health policy though, but i heard this some years ago in the context of public policy issues…

  9. karma, with due respect, Nepal should be the last country we should copy from. Look for more advanced countries.

  10. Legalizing it seems like going for the easy way out since there’s a good reason why it is not legal. Like someone pointed out, sex education could be one of the ways, and I think we could do well by focusing on vulnerable populations to start with. I think CSOs could play an important role here, and the government of course have the responsibility.

  11. Abortion should be legalised. You may feel that it is against religion, morals, ethics, values, etc, but that is a matter of opinion, and i beleive that a women should have the right to decide if she wants to keep a baby or not. if a woman doesn’t want to have a baby,I am sure she has a reason for it. And to force any woman to have a baby she does not want is unfair to her and to the baby too. moreover, as we can see, women who dont want the babies do not choose to keep them just because of the law- they go to extreme measures, sometimes endangering their own lives. Abortion is no small matter, and of course there is a much deeper issue, which needs more work- sex education in schools and in communities is one way to begin. social issues such as marriage at a young age and the alleged affairs between urban men and rural girls which lead to such situations and the sadder ones regarding census, need serious attempts at repair.
    We should start treating people who come into conflict with law more wisely- when the most harm someone who breaks a law is doing to themselves, we need to treat them not as criminals but as victims, with compassion and the intention to help- not punish.

  12. Hi Truth, i understand why you say that. However, i feel we should look at countries with similar cultural, social and educational achievements to understand what will work and what may not in our context. I agree we must look at developed nations to learn from but copying their policies may be disastrous as we can see from our many policies and legislations that become too difficult to implement and remain locked in papers and shelves or leading to new problems. Most policies and legislations often face these issues, thus undermining the noble intension behind its very existence.

  13. Since it is illegal in our country we should now think of setting up an orphanage and a maternity care center for single or unmarried mothers. They can live there and be taken care of and after giving birth they can go live their normal lives and the baby will be in the orphanage.

    If that can’t be done then it should be legalized, even the emergency contraceptive pills should be made available then.

    It is going against religion but losing two lives or bringing an unwanted child into the world where it won’t have a good life is not fair or right to the baby as well as to the mother.

  14. LEGALIZE ABORTION. Dont let our citizens suffer under the whims of inefficient clinics across the border making money on precious lives.


  15. I think every one should give second throught here. The need to carry out a detail study and research is there. As deedee mention it is very unfortunate that agencies involved like NCWC and RENEW who preaches a lot on women and Child rights are quite in silent mode despite a long history of problem. For me..legalizing with clear rules and regulation would be a option. However, the study needs to be carried out at any cost.

  16. it is not even a fortnight, that an issue about a mother of four children was brought to Pling hospital after facing similar complications after abortion in Jaigon, and so on n so forth, why can’t women learn a lesson? Knowing that there is danger beyond the Pling gate still they seek out solutions there.

    its true that we cant sue the medical clinics across the border who are responsible for all these deaths, why cant we sue the person(the supposed father)?????????????????????????? as his denial to marry the girl, she had to face death.

  17. It is a serious issue and will become only worse if we don’t intervene when its not too late. I guess right now is the right time when the problem is beginning to show.

    However, before we make a decision on whether or not it should or should not be legalized.. my recommendation would be to do a proper study on the issue. WE need to find out why or how its happening.
    what is really required in order for something as sad and dangerous to stop.

    i won’t even go in details of what mistakes in our policies interventions we have made in the past due to lack or data or for that matter due of lack of research…
    But before we make any decisions, i believe that to understand that grounds realities of what is actually happening is important. it need not be a huge survey or a country wise research but a stratified study of about 200 or a little more surveys of people who are at risk ( both men and women) , of parents and people who might be affected by such an issue.

    But i guess lack of funds and man power is a big issue.. but then again here lies a paradox…. don;t we have these large number of young people who are looking for jobs as well…WTH ????

  18. Tashi, a very good suggestion. Let there be proper fact finding study/survey be done before we make any judgement about abortion issue. In this way, we may arrive at a sensible solution.


  19. SONAM, DOROKHA says

    So sad to think of abortions n i would suggest the love makers to use condoms and prevent pregnancies as well as dreadly diseases. That is the last solution if they don’t want kids. But never n ever make blunder mistakes owing to, ur hyper and hungerness. Don’t let them, ladies suffer and join ur hands and play safe sex without risks and play with pleasure and excitments too. Thanks

  20. fuentsho says

    Its a terrible situation I guess. And its more obvious in developing countries like ours. I think we cannot just blindly say we should legalize abortion based on the momentary sympathy we tend to be filled with at the moment, neither can we say that it should not be legalized given the fact that lot of our young girls and women are subject of such harsh taboo.
    Bhutanese society is not as conservative as some other societies where change is hard to accept. With education and with educated people taking active role in the process, I think things will improve. Awareness, advocacy and education might be the best solutions before we enact the laws such as legalizing abortion. I speculate the number of abortions in the hospital if legalized will be rampant. Young couples will become more irresponsible.
    Education, education, education, and education is the best solution.

  21. Its not only a question of legalising abortions, but it is also a question of preventive awareness campaigns-the media and social awareness programs are proven to effectively reduce abortions and pregnancy cases. Also I think we should start a parent awareness program like they do in Australia-they have programs online, communities, etc where they teach and help parents talk with thier children about safe sex, alcohol, drugs, etc and what to do in such a situation.
    I feel if we talk about it in the open, it is less likely for our women to go through such struggles.
    And what about the I-Pill?? Shouldnt it be back on the market?

  22. The first step must be legalizing it, then we may do things that are necessary, such as awareness, removing the stigma, …
    My views on why it should be legalized followed by many comments are here in my blog:

  23. @truth..
    i am sorry but i never thought i was perfect and i dont think i am either.. and yeah if u r talking bout compassion.. yes i do have feelings and i can understand how women feel when they have to terminate their pregnancies. i do support support abortion only if it has justifications. women can always do an MR( MENSTURAL REGULATION) IF THEY DO NOT WANT THE BABY.
    BUT the baby in the mothers womb is viable and i dont think as Buddhists we should support abortion.

    I think we should have a family planning clinic in Bhutan. family planning clinic where there is facilities for safe MR and where couples can consult with doctors etc etc..

  24. Straight drive says

    The question here is not Abortion. The question here should be the risky sexual behaviour of our people. Legalizing abortion will only lead to more indulgence into risky sexual behaviours which will lead to rise of HIV/AIDS, STIs and more over increased incidences of unwanted pregnancies and therefore killing of more fetuses. We need to think even about the unborn baby and the doctor that does the abortion. Both may not agree to legalizing it outright. The following can be intensified to combat the problem to some extend:
    1..Safe sexual behaviour with proper use of condom and limiting sexual partners. For this the govt will have to intensify existing programs as well as to frame laws to curb activities that lead to increased exposure to easy sexual encounters.

    2..legalise abortion in selected groups like, pregnancy following rape etc.

    3..ofcourse we can do abortion if mother’s life is at risk

  25. 24 comments and not a single mention that men need to take at least equal responsibility for the unborn child.

    I am outraged at the lack of consideration towards the fact that women don’t get pregnant alone. Where is the accountability of men in this issue?

  26. I strongly feel that there should be a facility for our bhutanese girls/women to have abortion of unexpected or unwanted pragnancies in our health system immediately before some more precious bhutanese women lives are lost due to risky abortions carried out in neighbouring Indian towns.

  27. Ajang_Tawjey says

    Its really sad to hear that being a Buddhist country, such thought of legalizing abortion pop up in the mind of Buddhist people. I am totally against legalizing abortion, firstly it will be a great shame for our Country BHUTAN, being a Buddhist country to legalize abortion, moreover if abortion should be legalize then why not LEGALIZE murder? Why government banned tobacco?? which made lots of people go behind the bar and make their life plus their family members life worst.
    I don’t think legalizing abortion is only the option to prevent such problem. Preventions are always there in ones hand but the thing is people are being careless so they deserve their life when they are trying to kill one life by aborting. From my side when people have an idea or knowledge to abort in Jaigoan surely that person also have a knowledge about how to prevent from such situation by using contraceptives such as condom and pills which is not really expensive in our country.
    Anyway i would like to request our government that instead of legalizing abortion, it will be better to educate people about safe sex and about the affects of unsafe sex. And moreover i suggest it will be better to form a strong organization to look after such matter and if ever a people involve in cases like such situation..find the cause for leading to abortion decision immediately without a delay like in court and then give life imprisonment. Strong law is really needed to stop such issues. It will a great problem legalizing abortion, that most people will involve in unsafe sex taking advantage over such thing, and moreover doctors are trained to treat patient and not to kill…

  28. For all of you who keeps on bringing Buddhism into the discussion, keep it out of it. Do you know why our gelongs and monastic bodies are not allowed to vote, it is because we are not allowed to mix politics with religion? Our majesty’s far sightedness knew that mixing politics with religion is not a good idea.

    And don’t preach Buddhism without understanding Buddhism. Most Bhutanese Buddhist want to act all holy and have know it all attitude with huge egos. If you want to preach Buddhism go to Buddhist forums, and learn about Buddhism first. I am tired of all the stupid people claiming to be Buddhist and acting like they all everything about Buddhism. Buddhism is more complicated than, don’t kill others, we are Buddhist we are the best, etc.

    So when we are discussing others things, keep religion out of it.

  29. ajang_Tawjey says

    If one should not bring buddhism in any topic why buddhism is considered as our main religion, and why our country is known as ‘choe dhoen gi gyelkhab’? If buddhism is to ignore then why laws are made over vandalism of kuten sungtens? And why meat shops should be closed during ‘dhezangs’?? Remember before giving personal attack on such issue, think that everybody have a right to discuss from political or religion point of view.

  30. My own view is that religion has lot to do with issue like abortion. I think why abortion is still a problem in many countries is because people believe that taking life form, whether young or old, is sin. If we do not discuss abortion and related issue without reference to people’s belief, which i think is shaped mostly by religion, then finding lasting solution to abortion related issues is difficult.

    By the way, this is purely my personal point of view—not intended to refute anybody’s argument.

  31. Article 3.3 of the constituion;
    It shall be the responsibility of religious institutions and
    personalities to promote the spiritual heritage of the country
    while also ensuring that religion remains separate from politics
    in Bhutan. Religious institutions and personalities shall remain
    above politics.

    Article 7.1
    All persons shall have the right to life, liberty and security of
    person and shall not be deprived of such rights except in
    accordance with the due process of law.

    Article 7.4
    A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought,
    conscience and religion. No person shall be compelled to
    belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.

    The reason why I bring this articles here if you oppose abortion, you are interfering with womens rights.

    If you bring Buddhism into the discussion, you are interfering with two articles of the constitution, first religion and politics should not be mixed and second, a Bhutanese can practice whatever religion he or she wants.

  32. media watch says

    Legalizing abortion is quite a complex issue. Carried away by the sheer number of Bhutanese women crossing the border to abort unwanted child, we just cannot see the abortion issue in black and white. ‘Legalize if that be’ attitude seems to be too comforting than it really is.

    While the right to abort an unwanted child must be given to the mother, the discourse must also not forget the right to life of an unborn.The child in the womb has every right to be born? How do we address this dual issue?

    Social and economic reasons also encourage women to resort to abortion, but as the last option. Legal measures must be put in place to prevent abortion at the first place.

    If a woman is aborting because the father of the child has refused to own-up, there must be legal recourse through which the woman can get justice and the father brought to book. If social stigma is a reason for women aborting, there is a greater need for awareness and education, not just on the rights of women but also to fight social stigmas against women.

    There would be many difficult reasons why a woman would choose abortion, and only she would know of that. But before we really think of legalizing abortion, we must look into ways to help them to give birth. Unless, under conditions where someone is seriously not prepared to take up the responsibility of motherhood, or is a drug addict, or alcoholic who could jeopardize the future of the unborn child, considerations should be made.

    I am not against legalizing abortion. But all alternatives must be exhausted before we decide to legalize abortion. The other alternative is, instead of legalizing abortion, how about if abortion is not criminalized.

    NGOs and women’s groups have a huge role to play. As some one rightly pointed out, to start with, a comprehensive empirical study must be done.

  33. media watch says

    Another point is: will legalizing abortion solve the problem? Will our doctors and health workers readily conduct abortions? if they don’t the option is again to go across the border? Rich can afford to do it in sophisticated hospitals in bangkok or elswhere, it is the poor who will suffer.

    It is a matter of ethics, morality and a question of religious dilemma!

  34. ajang_tawjey says

    I don’t think you have answered my questions by posting articles of constitution. Relating those articles can you please be kind enough to explain my questions that i have posted in previous post so we can stop poluting this environment by arguing, moreover your rude way of answering towards the posts who relates with budhism seems too harsh when everybody have a right to share their own view regarding any issues though you are fed up hearing something related to buddhism which we didn’t force you to read and there will be some people who like and who also want to relate it from religion point of view. Abortion, which is same like killing is not only against buddhism but its against all religion, and everybody have a right to protect own religion and we have a right to protect own religion which is above politics, and we should have a respect for owns religion. All are not same like you..
    I don’t think legalizing abortion is only the way to give women right when there are many ways to prevent it moreover if we have a mind to look after the right of women we should also look over the right of one which has been conceived. Getting pregnant is not a disaster which is unavoidable and it can be prevented with many ways and nothing is expensive, its almost free in our country.
    For your kind information though you are strong supporter for legalizing abortion we also have a right to give our own views and nothing there to take personal and comment with such a rude words towards few of us who have related this views with religion..Lastly i would like to request you (truth) to be kind enough to let people share their own view, be it against your thought or supporting ur thought, don’t use such a rude words which no one can digest when everybody have a freedom of thought (as per article 7.4, which u have already posted)and if you have a comment on it, don’t take it as personal and comment in a better way.
    Sorry to all that the place where we are to share our own view regarding legalizing abortion has been like a place for argument…

  35. Abortion is every women’s right and it should be legalized!!!

  36. observer says

    if one know about having sex why dont he and she put little more affort to learn, avail and practice to have safe sex too which is free of cost?

    Therefore, let them suffer if they dont want to follow above simple rule.

    It is upto them to put their life to dangerous risk by having unsafe sex and undergoing unsafe abortion.

    please have as long discussion as possible law makers.
    good luck

  37. Abortion should be legalized only if there is a medicolegal justification. And as we see increasing numbers in abortion in our country where it is banned I cant imagine how many more will die if it were legalized… Just legalizing abortion doesnt mean there wont be complications…. There is no such thing as a safe abortion…

  38. I know Buddhism is much more deep than what i understand And i will never really understand the complexity of it… But i know wat i feel is right. And just knowing that i believe in something what ever it may be is enough for me… I believe that Abortion is CRIME in my RELIGION. And Women do have rights. Choosing to be a mother is her right. But abortion is not the answer….


  1. […] month I posted a poll asking if abortion should be legalized in our country. Thank you for participating in the poll. And thank you for your views, both for and against […]

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