Kampala- A new report on abortion in Uganda shows that misconception and unclear laws are forcing women to procure unsafe abortions even in cases, where they would legally procure a safe abortion.
The latest estimates from the Ministry of Health indicate that a total of 292,000 abortions are carried out annually in Uganda. This translates to 800 per day and experts say that more than a half of these are procured using crude methods.
The report titled: “A Technical Guide to Understanding the Legal and Policy Framework on Termination of Pregnancy in Uganda” by the Centre for Reproductive Health Uganda, indicates that majority of women in Uganda go for unsafe abortion because they have been made to believe that terminating pregnancy is illegal.
Speaking at the release of the report in Kampala yesterday, the regional director for Africa at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, Ms Evelyne Opondo, said the perceived illegality of abortion services in Uganda has led to stigma, fear and secrecy driving many women to desperate measures to end pregnancies.
She called on leaders to clarify the abortion laws and broaden access to information about reproductive health care, including access to family planning and safe abortion services.
The report says the laws and policies governing termination of pregnancy in Uganda are inconsistent, unclear, and often contradictory.
“Despite popular belief that professional codes of conduct and ethics in Uganda forbid or limit the provision of abortion services, our research revealed otherwise. None of the official codes of conduct for specific cadres of health care professionals makes explicit reference to abortion or termination of pregnancy,” reads part of the report.
“It is difficult to obtain a copy of the Ministry of Health’s 2006 National Policy Guidelines for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights—the only government document that outlines the circumstances under which abortion may be provided in Uganda. Very few copies appear to be in circulation, and the ministry no longer has copies for distribution,” it adds.
The report outlines circumstances under which safe abortion services should be made available and clear guidance on how to interpret the exceptions to the abortion law.
“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, the vice president of the 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,” he added.
State Minister for Primary Health Care Sarah Opendi said majority of the abortions happening in Uganda every day often result in death, disability and other consequences.
“In reality we know that achieving the maternal mortality target will be impossible unless we open our eyes and tackle the causes including unsafe abortion that contributes about 25 per cent of the maternal death in our country,” she said.
She said that the ministry will take the lead in disseminating information on the legal and policy framework on preventing maternal mortality from unsafe abortion.