P189 – Abortion in Africa: Causes, Pathways and Consequences
10 July, 14:00-15:30

Coast Ernestina / LSE (London School of Economics)
Freeman Emily / LSE


Empirical evidence regarding abortion is poorly documented and understood in many African contexts, irrespective of whether abortion is prohibited, illegal or highly restricted. Even in African countries where abortion is legal, and safe services are available, significant proportions of abortions continue to be unsafe, especially for adolescents. In such settings, women make difficult decisions due to the risks (e.g.: social, health) and costs (e.g.: financial) involved. The panel invites submissions from a range of disciplinary perspectives based on qualitative and/or quantitative evidence that explore the causes, pathways and consequences of abortion in Africa. Submissions will reflect the diverse contexts and experiences of women in Africa – social, cultural, economic, legal and political. The roles played by other people (partner, household, family) and institutions (political, health, community) in understanding the causes, pathways and consequences of abortion are critical, but remain an under-researched subject.

L’avortement en Afrique: causes, conséquences et trajectoires
Les données empiriques concernant l’avortement sont encore mal documentées et mal comprises dans de nombreux contextes africains, indépendamment du fait que l’avortement soit interdit, illégal ou très limité. Même dans les pays africains où l’avortement est légal, et où les services sont disponibles, l’avortement continue d’être dangereux, surtout pour les adolescentes. Dans de telles situations, les femmes sont amenées à prendre des décisions difficiles en raison des risques (e.g.: sociale, santé) et des coûts. A partir d’un éventail de perspectives disciplinaires basée sur des données qualitatives et / ou quantitatives, Les contributions vont explorer les causes, conséquences et trajectoires de l’avortement en Afrique. Elles vont refléter la diversité des contextes et des expériences des femmes en Afrique – social, culturel, économique, juridique et politique. Les rôles joués par d’autres personnes (partenaire, ménage, famille) et les institutions (politique, santé, communauté) pour comprendre les causes, conséquences et trajectoires de l’avortement sont essentiels, mais restent un sujet encore largement sous-étudié.

Paper 1

Imafidon Kelly, University of Benin, Nigeria

Unsafe Deliberate Feticide: The Experiences of Young Women in Isiohor Community

The incidences of unwanted pregnancies and abortions are global issues which have attracted the attention of scholars, researchers from different professions and even International Agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) which consistently raised alarm about the dangers and health implications of abortions in all ramifications. This paper focuses problem of unsafe but deliberate abortions by young women in Isiohor Communities, Edo state, South- South, Nigeria. The study adopted the cross-sectional study design. A total of 100 women participated in the study and the women were within the reproductive age of 15-30 years. The research participants were selected from the total population of 74,911 women in the study area through the simple random sampling method. The instrument of data collection was the structured questionnaire which was analyzed with standardized statistical methods like the chi square. The results of the analysis of the data reveal that the causes of unsafe but deliberate feticide in the study area are multifaceted ranging from deceptions to poverty and ignorance. The impacts of the unsafe abortion were elucidated, and recommendations made for the way forward.

Paper 2

Fusari Valentina / University of Pavia

Unsafe abortion in Eritrea: facts and social values

According to the World Health Organization’s estimates, unsafe and induced abortion is a very common experience in Eastern Africa, accounting for an important percentage of maternal deaths. This paper would like to fill the gap in knowledge concerning causes, pathways, and consequences of unsafe abortion in Eritrea. Although it is difficult to determine the magnitude and identify factors associated with abortion, and data are particularly scanty, this study is an effort to gather quantitative and qualitative data through fieldwork.
As the peculiar political and socio-demographic context influences the use of contraceptives and the fertility rates among Eritrean women, the issue of unsafe abortion is important to improve maternal health (Millennium Development Goal 5). Therefore, a gender and emic perspective allows highlighting the actors’ choices and practices in a country where the abortion law is highly restricted. Thus, through the ethnodemographic method, the paper provides an overview about trends and social meaning of unsafe abortion in the Eritrean post-independence society.

Paper 3

Cichecka Anna / University of Wrocław, Polish Center for African Studies

Political Aspects of Abortion Issue in East Africa

Abortion is recognized as an emotive and sensitive issue around the world and the paper will refer to the political aspects of the abortion issue, considering the case of East Africa region. Particular attention will be paid to Kenya – widely considered as a leader in promoting women’s rights in the region; Tanzania – a state, where women’s movements have increased in importance; and Uganda – famous for actions against women’s rights. The first assumption is, that the normative and the ideational structure (pro-life and pro-choice discussions) shape the identity and behavior of the actors (society, women and politicians who decide about the legalization of abortion). However, the author does not attempt to take a comprehensive explanation of relations between structures and actors, or build assertions about t he nature of cause and effect, but only to consider and understand this phenomenon. The second assumption is, that abortion issue in East Africa region is often a political issue, what means that attitude to abortion is treated as bargaining card in political life. The paper will be based on the content analysis of both commitments and reports on women rights and women status (including: Maputo Protocol; The Constitution of Kenya; Tanzanian the Safe Motherhood Bill; Ugandan National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) as well as the political and mass media discourse.

Paper 4

Ouédraogo Ramatou / LAM, Université de Bordeaux

« Des trajectoires de l’ombre ». Quand normes sociales et codes juridiques imposent des recours risqués pour avorter à Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)

Au Burkina Faso, la restriction juridique et la réprobation sociale de l’IVG condamnent les quêtes d’avortement, alors illégales et illégitimes, à exister dans l’ombre. En l’absence d’offre officielle de services d’interruption volontaire de grossesse, une offre subreptice plurielle s’est développée et tire ses moyens d’un contexte de pluralisme médical. L’objectif de cette communication est de saisir la manière dont se construisent les itinéraires, les logiques qui les guident, ainsi que les degrés d’exposition des femmes aux risques de l’avortement. Les parcours d’avortement de 46 jeunes femmes permettent de saisir les péripéties et les implications de la « débrouille » pour accéder à ces offres d’interruption de grossesse dans la ville de Ouagadougou. Les données montrent que se faire avorter est un processus qui met en scène différents acteurs (les femmes, leurs proches, les professionnels de santé, des tradithérapeutes, des vendeurs ambulants de médicaments, etc.) et qui est un ordre négocié. Les trajectoires qui se dégagent sont le fruit de logiques éclectiques et de contraintes auxquelles les femmes se confrontent, en l’occurrence celles induites par les stigmates de l’avortement et la restriction juridique. À terme, les parcours des femmes montrent des inégalités se mesurant à l’aune des difficultés d’accès aux soins et des délais dans les recours d’une part, ainsi que les conséquences de l’avortement de l’autre.

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