Making Unsafe Abortion History in Uganda

Unsafe abortion is an issue in Uganda. Women are dying, and suffering serious complications from trying to end their pregnancies using unsafe methods. A 2010 report by the Ugandan Ministry of Health showed that 8% of maternal deaths were caused by unsafe abortion. Our restrictive law is clearly not stopping people from seeking abortions, but it means that they are often forced to use unsafe procedures outside of the healthcare system.

COHERINET wants to make sure that women and girls know they have a right to safe abortion care.

With SAAF funding, we have been working for years now to increase access to safe abortion especially among the most marginalized and vulnerable women and girls.

Working on the ECASAU Project (Expanding Community Activism around Safe Abortion in Uganda) has enabled us to improve the uptake of safe medical abortion. We have a well-coordinated referral network of friendly facilities and community liaison officers who share relevant information with women and girls who need it. In addition, we have also been empowered to ensure an increase in knowledge and awareness among women and girls of reproductive age about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and in particular the right to access safe medical abortion services.

We carried out research with over 100,000 women and girls which showed that unsafe abortion is very common in Uganda.

Our four-year study was carried out from 2018 to 2021, across three districts – Kampala Metropolitan, Gulu and Amuru. We interviewed 102,509 women and girls, including young people in and out of school, sex workers, people with disabilities, lesbians, and women married to men. We wanted to make sure we were speaking to a diverse range of people within our communities.

61,505 (60%) of respondents told us that they had used unsafe abortion methods to get rid of unwanted pregnancies. This tells us that women and girls in these communities do not yet have all the information and resources they need to access safe abortion care. There is also an unmet need for contraception.

There is a need to recognize safe abortion as a health care and human rights issue.

Even though we have seen changes from our work on abortion, there is still clearly a need to improve information and services. There is a need to integrate abortion care services within the health system to ensure that service delivery meets people’s needs equitably without discrimination and stigmatization.

We therefore extend our profound and sincere gratitude to SAAF for nurturing us from the very beginning of our journey to date as we work to advocate for safe abortion practices among the grassroots communities of Uganda. Let’s make unsafe abortion history!

By Mahoro Florence, Community Mobilization Manager at COHERINET. COHERINET has been a SAAF grantee partner since 2017.

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