Abortion and Sri Lankan Law: Understanding the Current Legal Landscape

Abortion has long been a controversial issue around the world, and Sri Lanka is no exception. With a population of over 21 million people, Sri Lanka has a complex legal framework that governs the issue of abortion. In this article, we’ll explore the current state of abortion law in Sri Lanka and the debates surrounding this contentious topic.

Current Laws on Abortion in Sri Lanka

Abortion is currently illegal in Sri Lanka, except in cases where it is necessary to save the life of the mother. This is based on the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, which criminalizes abortion and imposes penalties on those who perform or procure an abortion.

Section 303 of the Penal Code states that “Whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry, shall, if such miscarriage be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both; and, if the woman be quick with child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

In addition to this law, the Sri Lankan government has also implemented regulations that prohibit the advertising of abortion services or information related to abortion. This makes it difficult for women seeking information about safe and legal abortion services.

Debates and Challenges to the Current Law

The current laws on abortion in Sri Lanka have been a subject of debate and controversy for many years. Proponents of legalizing abortion argue that women should have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies and their reproductive health. They also argue that criminalizing abortion drives the practice underground, leading to unsafe and often deadly procedures.

Opponents of legalizing abortion, on the other hand, argue that it goes against the country’s cultural and religious values. They also argue that the right to life extends to the unborn fetus and that abortion is morally wrong.

Another challenge to the current laws on abortion in Sri Lanka is the high rate of unsafe abortions. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortions account for a significant proportion of maternal deaths in Sri Lanka. Many women who are unable to access safe and legal abortions are forced to resort to dangerous methods, including self-induced abortions or seeking untrained providers.

Possible Reforms to Abortion Laws in Sri Lanka

In recent years, there have been discussions and proposals to reform Sri Lanka’s abortion laws. In 2018, the Sri Lankan Cabinet approved a proposal to legalize abortion in certain circumstances, including cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and when the woman’s life is at risk.

However, this proposal was met with strong opposition from religious and cultural groups, and it has yet to be enacted into law. As of now, abortion remains illegal in Sri Lanka except in cases where it is necessary to save the life of the mother.


Abortion remains a controversial and divisive issue in Sri Lanka. The current laws criminalizing abortion, combined with the prohibition on advertising abortion services, make it difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion services. However, there are ongoing debates and proposals to reform the current laws to allow for more exceptions and circumstances where abortion is legal. The ultimate goal is to ensure that women have access to safe and legal abortion services and to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortions and maternal deaths in Sri Lanka.