The law, trials and imprisonment for abortion in Senegal

The law on abortion in Senegal is both restrictive and unclear. Although the country’s criminal code completely prohibits pregnancy termination, the Code of Medical Ethics allows an abortion if three doctors agree that the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life. Given these circumstances, almost no abortions are legal and unsafe abortion leads to a high maternal mortality ratio. A combination of an inherited colonial penal code, and the influence of religion and social stigma, mean that despite continuing attempts by advocates to change the law, cases of sometimes prolonged pre-trial detention and imprisonment for illegal abortion and for infanticide among women unable to obtain an abortion, are rife, especially among poor and rural women.

This report looks at Senegal’s abortion law and policy, the prevalence of unsafe abortions, attempts to reform the law, the process of criminalisation of women, the extent of infanticide, and women’s stories, based on a range of published sources and valuable input from Senegalese human rights and women’s rights advocates.