Facing Uganda’s Law on Abortion

by Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Uganda, and Center for Reproductive RightsIn 2015, the police recorded 1,800 cases to do with abortion, and in 2014, 1,600 cases. These statistics were revealed by Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga during the launch of this report in Kampala on 28 July 2016. The report is a compilation of experiences of women and health service providers in regard to abortion. Most reports to the police arise from a death or major injury,” Enanga said, but after investigation, only a few cases proceed to court.Yet most abortions in Uganda are carried out outside the limited terms of the law. The consequence is that 26% of maternal deaths in Uganda are due to unsafe abortion, according to Ministry of Health statistics. And according to Dr Charles Kiggundu, a consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist at Mulago Hospital, a national referral hospital, 10,000 women with complications of unsafe abortions are treated. The biggest barrier to accessing abortion, he said, is access to the service itself. “Some hospitals don’t have the facilities, others the training and others the staff. Others may have all that in place but require a woman to fill in a police form before they can access the service. No woman will agree to sign it.”Prof. Anthony Mbonye, Ag. Director General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, said to tackle unnecessary deaths from unsafe abortion, he had proposed to introduce manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, while he was still in the Reproductive Health Department but this never came to pass. Now he supports better access to contraception, in hopes of preventing more unwanted pregnancies that lead to unsafe abortions.The introduction to this ‘photo voice’ booklet says that its purpose is “to evoke for the reader the reality of the situation in Uganda. It specifically speaks about the impact of the criminalization of abortion in Uganda. It offers an array of voices: a girl who was defiled and denied access to abortion services, a woman imprisoned for procuring an abortion, a health service provider detained for providing post-abortion care, a law enforcement officer, a gynaecologist, obstetrician, and midwife involved in providing abortion and post-abortion care, a legal practitioner who specializes in abortion law, and the voices of girls that have procured unsafe abortions, among others.”The authors’ hope is “that these voices have the power to create space for the rights holders and duty bearers to speak out on these key issues and bring about change. We believe that sharing these stories will strengthen the case for legislative reform and lead to a decrease in the high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the country as well as realization of the rights of women.”SOURCE: AllAfrica.com, by Flavia Nassaka, 29 July 2016PUBLICATION: Facing Uganda’s Law on Abortion, July 2016