The first-ever regional meeting in Africa to address unsafe abortion and access to abortion-related care was held last month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Entitled “Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Africa,” the conference brought together an array of people that are working to stop the number of deaths from unsafe abortion including ministers of health, legislators, heads of professional organizations representing gynecologists and lawyers, representatives from regional and national health research and policy institutions, and representatives from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), according to Ipas.
About 30,000 African women die each year because of complications from unsafe or illegal abortions. This accounts for 12 percent of all maternal deaths in Africa. Conference participants called on African governments to fund reproductive health and address unsafe abortion in national and health budgets. According to the communique issued by conference participants, they also called on multilateral and bilateral donor agencies to direct more resources to prevent unsafe abortion and to make abortion legal. Finally, participants “vehemently opposed” the global gag rule, which was re-instituted in 2001 by US President George Bush. The global gag rule prohibits funding from going to family planning organizations that, with their own money, provide abortion referrals, perform abortions, or discuss abortion. “We call on African governments and the global community to be accountable to their citizens and other stakeholders by opposing it,” the communique said. According to Ipas, Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah, one of the conference organizers and former Minister of Health in Ghana, said, “the gag rule’s impact in Africa is tragic. As leaders who are concerned about Africa’s women and Africa’s future, we cannot and will not be gagged. We must speak out and we must do something to stop unsafe abortion from killing our women and girls.”
In addition, at a one-day meeting at Nairobi Hospital in Kenya, the controversial issue of legalizing abortion was discussed. According to The Nation Nairobi, approximately 5,000 women and girls die from complications from unsafe abortion in Kenya each year. Legalization of abortion and access to safe contraceptive methods would significantly decrease the number of deaths resulting from abortion complications.