As tens of thousands of African women continue to die from unsafe abortion, the Pan African Parliament (PAP) wants to strengthen the legal and policy frameworks for safe, legal abortions in Africa.
This issue, and a report on the subject, were introduced at PAP’s Fifth Ordinary Session which concludes on Wednesday, at the Gallagher Conference Centre in Midrand.
PAP’s Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs and the Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability met in Midrand in July 2015, at a colloquium jointly organised with Ipas African Alliance to discuss the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions in Africa.
They noted with that unsafe abortion was one of the key drivers of maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa and that regulating African states tended to criminalise rather than adopt a human rights-based approach which resulted in women resorting to unsafe abortion methods.
Six million cases of unsafe abortion occur in Africa annually, leading to the death of 29,000 women each year.
Thirteen percent of all maternal deaths result from unsafe abortion, while 60 percent of all death from unsafe abortions in Africa occur among women and girls under the age of 25.
In Eastern Africa 18 percent, nearly one in five, of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortion, the highest in Africa, while Southern Africa has the lowest rate of nine percent, or one in 10.
African countries have some of the most restrictive laws and policies on abortion and criminalisation of the issue is driving women to seek clandestine and unsafe abortions.
The report advocates removing restrictions on abortion by expanding the grounds to include cases of rape, incest, foetal anomalies and the need to save the life and health of the pregnant woman.
Removing punitive measures for women who undergo abortion, even in cases where abortion is restricted, and repealing laws that require health personnel to report women undergoing abortions are other recommendations.
Removing punitive measures on healthcare providers who perform abortion, particularly in order to save the life or health of the pregnant woman or in case of rape, incest or foetal anomalies, is also recommended.
Eliminating requirements for third-party consent and ensuring that females have access to comprehensive post abortion care and providing information on sexual productive health are also critical.