Though abortion was previously legal in Laos, it was highly restricted. In practice, the provision of Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) and Medical Abortion (MA) was widespread, but without the legal framework to support them, access to safe procedures was limited and providers were left untrained and un-monitored. As a result, many women turned to dangerous methods to end their pregnancies.
In 2016, Laos completed the first Maternal Death Review (MDR) which showed that 54% of maternal deaths were due to post-partum hemorrhage, of which the many cases the Ministry of Health attributed to unsafe abortion. The MDR provided the catalyst for the Ministry of Health (MoH) to address the barriers that were preventing optimal maternal outcomes.
Key stakeholders and technical experts arrived at the consensus that clinical guidelines needed to be created as a tool to enhance legal protections, to advocate for better policy, and to ensure all women had access to safe abortion services.