Abortion is a controversial topic in Africa, with many countries having restrictive laws that make it difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion services. Here are some key facts about abortion in Africa:
Unsafe abortions: Women in sub-Saharan Africa face the greatest risk globally for an unintended pregnancy to result in unsafe abortion.
Globally, nearly half of all maternal deaths from unsafe abortion occur in Africa.
Unsafe abortions cause 16% of maternal deaths in the World Health Organization’s largely sub-Saharan Africa region.
Legal status: In 2019, 92% of women of reproductive age in Africa lived in one of 43 countries where access to abortion was restricted or penalized.
The legal status of abortion in a country is directly connected to its maternal mortality and morbidity rates.
Reproductive health laws: As of October 2021, ten sub-Saharan African countries had passed reproductive health laws specifying grounds for abortion care, including expansions to abortion rights in the Gambia passed in 2010 under the Women’s Act
Other countries, such as Kenya and Somalia, have chosen to institute constitutional reform.
Self-managed abortion: The increased use of abortion medicines (misoprostol and mifepristone) is already associated with a global reduction in abortion-related morbidity and mortality
However, self-managed abortion can be risky and can lead to complications if not done correctly.
U.S. influence: US religious conservatives have lobbied to restrict abortion in Africa, which could reverse gains in the availability of safe abortion procedures
The US government is the largest global donor of international reproductive health assistance.
Overall, the legal status of abortion in Africa varies widely, with many countries having restrictive laws that make it difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion services. Unsafe abortions are a major cause of maternal deaths in Africa, and efforts to legalize and make abortions safer have faced opposition from conservative groups.
What are some of the reasons for restrictive abortion laws in Africa
There are several reasons for restrictive abortion laws in Africa, including:
- Colonial legacy: Many African countries inherited restrictive abortion laws from their former colonial powers. These laws were often based on religious and moral beliefs that viewed abortion as a sin or immoral act.
- Cultural and religious beliefs: Many African societies have strong cultural and religious beliefs that view abortion as morally wrong and unacceptable. These beliefs can make it difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion services.
- Lack of political will: Some African governments are reluctant to liberalize abortion laws due to political pressure from conservative groups or religious leaders. This can make it difficult to pass laws expanding access to safe and legal abortion services.
- Limited access to healthcare: Many African countries have limited access to healthcare services, including reproductive healthcare services. This can make it difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion services, even in cases where it is legal.
- Stigma and discrimination: Women who seek abortion services in Africa may face stigma and discrimination from their communities and healthcare providers. This can make it difficult for them to access safe and legal abortion services.
Overall, restrictive abortion laws in Africa have contributed to high rates of unsafe abortions and maternal mortality. Efforts to legalize and make abortions safer have faced opposition from conservative groups and religious leaders, as well as limited political will and access to healthcare services.