We celebrated International Safe Abortion Day on 28 September 2021 with great success! This was a joint effort. The press release below, published in English and French, recounts yesterday’s events as well as some data from the results of the quantitative and qualitative study conducted by the Nifin’Akanga Movement, which was presented yesterday.
28 September 2021, celebration of International Safe Abortion Day
“Let’s continue the legacy of Mireille Rabenoro”
In December 2017, the Senate refused to rule on an article authorising therapeutic termination of pregnancy that was part of Law No. 2017-043 laying down the general rules governing Reproductive Health and Family Planning. Worse, Article 28 reinforces that “any natural person who will have practised the interruption of pregnancy for medical reasons, in disregard of the conditions provided by the law, will be punished by the penalty provided by the Penal Code Article 317”. The framework prohibiting medical and therapeutic termination of pregnancy in cases of rape or incest has thus been especially hardened. This marks a clear step backwards for women’s rights in Madagascar.
Mireille RABENORO, an incredible feminist and an icon of human rights, was one of the rare people of her generation in Madagascar who openly and relentlessly demanded the decriminalisation of abortion. As the patron of the Nifin’Akanga Movement, she never stopped sharing her thoughts, knowledge and experiences. Mireille Rabenoro died far too young on 20 June 2021. We celebrate her memory on 28 September 2021 to thank her and to work towards a better future.
This day of advocacy, under Mireille Rabenoro’s wings, is an opportunity for the Nifin’Akanga Movement to share the results of the largest national survey on abortion practices in Madagascar. It was carried out with a sample of 4,478 people including 3,568 women and 910 practitioners. This retrospective and descriptive quantitative study took place from 28 September to 28 October 2020 in the six former provincial capitals. Many of the results are surprising and break the stereotypes. Others darken an already morbid picture.
First of all, women have abortions at all ages. The age range recorded was between 14 and 50. It is therefore wrong to stigmatise young girls as the ones who have the most abortions. Women over age 25 make up 61.4% and those over 35 are 27.5%.
Women have abortions regardless of their level of education. Those with education up to secondary school represent 38.5% and university graduates more than 42%.
In terms of marital status, women who have/have had a stable relationship represent more than 51%.
In terms of religion, Christians have the most abortions, just over 81% of respondents. However, they are the ones who adopt the most virulent and closed discourse when it comes to the decriminalisation of abortion.
52% of abortions take place in inappropriate settings, such as women’s homes or the homes of practitioners. 31% are performed by people with no medical training, 29.5% by paramedics, 22% by doctors and 18% by matrons.
The study once again highlighted the major problem of family planning in Madagascar: 88% of women were not using any contraceptive method. The main reasons for abortion were: pregnancy too early (23.2%) and unwanted pregnancy (20.1%). The other main reasons (20.3%) included medical or therapeutic reasons (78.1%), rape (15.4%) and incest (6.5%). These findings reinforce our conviction of the importance of sex education at all ages and the importance of a strategy for promoting contraception. They also suggest that sexual violence is more widespread than we thought. But therapeutic cases are also very frequent.
“The law is supposed to protect us, not kill us.” Laws must evolve to protect citizens. Article 317 of the penal code, which criminalises abortion, is a cut-and-paste of the Napoleonic code of 1817, representing 211 years of delay, of human lives unjustly lost by a law that is unfounded. No law should impose death on a woman carrying a pregnancy that will inevitably kill her. No man should lose his wife, his daughter, his mother because of a law that forbids saving her. No doctor should have this sword of Damocles hanging over them when they have taken an oath to save lives.
It is time for the law to change and for therapeutic termination of pregnancy to be legalised in Madagascar.