Confusing Laws Lead to Unsafe Abortions in Uganda

Confusing abortion laws and reproductive health policies in Uganda have forced women to turn to unsafe abortions and increased the number of unplanned pregnancies in the country, according to a new report, The Stakes Are High: The Tragic Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda, from the Center for Reproductive Rights, the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law.

The report, released today, documents personal stories of women impacted by the widespread and false impression that abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Uganda. In fact the country’s laws permit abortion for women not only to save a woman’s life but also on mental and physical health grounds.

“The perceived illegality of abortion services in Uganda has led to stigma, fear and secrecy—driving far too many women to desperate measures to end a pregnancy,” said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Leaders in Uganda must not only clarify the abortion laws, but also broaden access to information among health care professionals and the public at large about reproductive health care, including access to family planning and safe abortion services.”

Each year an estimated 297,000 induced abortions occur in Uganda, with nearly 85,000 women receiving treatment for complications from unsafe abortion. About 65,000 women experience complications resulting from unsafe abortion but do not receive any treatment. Unsafe abortion is one of the most easily preventable causes of maternal mortality, yet more than a quarter of maternal deaths in the country occur because of unsafe abortion, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Health in Uganda.

Many of these deaths are in large part because of confusion and ignorance of reproductive health laws, as women are often discouraged from accessing legal reproductive health services.

“Studies have shown that women’s ability to exercise reproductive autonomy, including access to effective contraception and safe abortion services, leads to better health for women,” said Dr. Charles Kiggundu, Vice President, Association of Obstetrics and Gynecologists of Uganda.

“It is tragic that women in Uganda continue to lose their lives as a consequence of their ability to become pregnant.”

Personal interviews in the report highlight how women are discriminated against when seeking modern contraception or legal abortion services.

Source: Reproductive Rights


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