Legislation making safe abortion accessible is a far cry from what’s happening on the ground – and South Africa is no exception.
This was revealed at the recent Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen‚ where more than 5,500 people from across the globe met to discuss sexual and reproductive rights.
According to the latest research shared at the conference‚ at least 22 500 women died from unsafe abortions globally in 2014.
Other estimates put it as high as 47,000 per year.
The Guttmacher Institute said that women in developing regions (including Southern Africa) are more likely to have an abortion than those in the developed world: the abortion rates are 37 per 1000 women and 27 per 1,000 women respectively.
But even where legislation protects the rights of women to access abortion‚ personal attitudes create a barrier.
Dr Willie Parker‚ a doctor in Mississippi‚ said at Women Deliver that he is one of only three remaining doctors willing to perform abortions in his state (which has a population of 3-million).
“The anti-abortion movement has called abortion a black genocide. Most of the women I serve are indeed black – because through circumstance they have little power over their reproductive rights. So anti-abortionists try to manipulate me by saying I am a traitor – a black man taking part in a genocide against black women’s unborn babies.”
He added: “Men are not the problem. Patriarchy is the problem. But we‚ as men‚ have the power to become traitors to patriarchy.”
Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom said contraception was something women had to hide from men‚ making it harder for them to avoid needing an abortion.
He said many women in his country were “asking for injectables” because “taking the pill every night is something their husbands could see”.
He said this mindset of men was fuelling the need for abortions.
According to Rebecca Hodes‚ a medical historian at UCT: “While the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act has reduced mortality and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortion‚ illegal abortion remains popular. Unsafe abortion is notoriously difficult to quantify.”
She said that in SA‚ high rates of abortion-related deaths point to the persistence of unsafe‚ illegal abortion.
“Women continue to terminate unwanted pregnancies as they always have: away from the glare of public censure‚ in the shadows of the reproductive arena‚” she said.
In South Africa‚ 7.7% of pregnancies end in legal abortion‚ according to the most recent data. That places it 81st out of 100 countries.
Source: Times Live