Under the Penal Code of Côte d’Ivoire, Law No. 81-640, 31 July 1981, abortion is prohibited except to save the life of the pregnant woman, if it is seriously endangered. Although this implies that it is an emergency situation, the attending physician must consult two additional physicians, who must certify that her life can only be saved by a surgical/therapeutic abortion. If only one other physician resides in the local area, the attending physician need only consult with this physician. If the treating physician is the only physician locally, s/he must certify on her/his honour that the life of the woman can only be saved by an abortion. The Penal Code also prohibits promotion of abortion by means of public discussion or advertisement or by distribution or sale of substances or objects. But it no longer contains similar restrictions on contraception that were enacted by the French colonial government in 1920.
Illegal abortion, with or without the consent of the woman, is subject to one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 150,000–1.5 million CFA francs. A person who regularly provides abortions is subject to 5-10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1–10 million CFA francs. A woman who procures or attempts to procure or consents to an abortion is subject to six months’ to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 to 300,000 CFA francs. Health professionals who encourage abortion are subject to the same penalties as those performing them. Persons convicted of performing an illegal abortion are prohibited from carrying out any function or employment in clinics and other establishments that regularly see pregnant women.
Up to 1981, when Côte d’Ivoire’s anti-contraception law was repealed, contraceptives were illegal. The Government now supports family planning. In 2010, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the Association Ivoirienne pour le Bien-Être Familial (AIBEF), an IPPF affiliate, drafted a National Family Planning Programme whose major objective was to increase contraceptive prevalence to 30% in 2010.
Ivoire-Soir (in French) reports the entire content of the draft bill, without comment. The first section consists of definitions. It states overall that: “Everyone who has reached the required legal age has the right to choose freely and responsibly to marry and to found a family.” Relevant excerpts from the rest, translated into English, are as follows:
Chapter 1: Rights
Article 11: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and sensitively on issues relating to reproductive health in accordance with current legislation, public order and morality.
Article 12: Married and unmarried couples can freely and judiciously decide on the spacing of their children’s births and have the necessary information to do so, and the right to access better reproductive health.
Article 13: Everyone has the right to information, education and the necessary means regarding the benefits, risks and effectiveness of all methods of birth control.
Article 14: Every individual or couple has the right to the highest quality of health care and not to be exposed to practices that undermine reproductive health.
Article 15: Every individual or couple has the right to access safe, effective, affordable and acceptable local services.
Article 16: Everyone has the right to be protected against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on their body in general and on their reproductive organs in particular… and any such medical treatment or care requires the prior and informed consent of the patient.
Chapter 2: Induced abortion
The voluntary interruption of pregnancy is prohibited and vigorously punished in accordance with the law. It is authorised, on the approval of at least three doctors, only on one of the following grounds:
1. when the continuation of the pregnancy endangers the life and the health of the pregnant woman;
2. at the request of the woman, when the pregnancy is the consequence of a rape or an incestuous relationship;
3. when the fetus has a serious condition or a diagnosed malformation.
In these cases, the voluntary termination of pregnancy must be done in conditions of safety according to the express will of the couple. Any stipulation to the contrary is null and void. The procedure and the control of the legal conditions of authorised voluntary termination of pregnancy are defined by decree from the Council of Ministers.
Chapter 3: Obligations
Article 17/18: The state has the obligation to adopt and implement a national program of reproductive health. It guarantees everyone access to appropriate treatment for all forms of sexual and reproductive health conditions… and all state bodies… ensure the safeguarding and promotion of the right of every human being to reproductive health.
Article 19: Any legally constituted couple or any individual has the obligation to contribute to safeguarding, protecting and promoting the reproductive health of the elderly, adults, adolescents and children, men and women around him.
Chapter 4 is about the obligation of the state to provide a programme and services to make reproductive health accessible to all the population, including coordinating public and private institutions, and there is much more.