In Nepal, the effects of the low social status of women and lack of access to health care and family planning have resulted in a maternal mortality ratio that is among the highest in South Asia. By the mid-1990s, the contribution of unsafe abortions to maternal deaths and morbidity was acknowledged by key individuals in the Ministry of Health and Department of Health Services. Advocacy for abortion law reform over several decades culminated in the passage of a new law on abortion in 2002. The parliamentary process took almost four years from the tabling of the bill. Almost two years elapsed between the passage of the bill and approval of the Procedural Order for implementing it This paper describes the development of policy and programme strategies for implementing the new law, led by the government in collaboration with NGOs, donors and other stakeholders. During that time, documents required for implementation were prepared, training of service providers was begun and a model service delivery and training site was established in Kathmandu Maternity Hospital. Simple systems to enable rapid expansion of services and a women-friendly approach were devised, promoting universal availability of affordable services provided by physicians and eventually nurses, the latter particularly in remote and rural areas, where 88% of the population live.