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Should Uganda's Abortion Law Be Revised?

When faced with the stigma or trauma of an unwanted pregnancy in Uganda, through situations such as lack of family planning, rape, incest and forced marriage, many women and girls resort to abortions.

However, Ugandan law is unclear on the issue. Article 22(2) states that ”no person has a right to terminate the life of an unborn child except as may be authorized by law”, so there is a question as to how much and when the doctor can legally help a woman to abort. Abortion is also regarded as a taboo by most cultures/tribes in Uganda and is believed to bring misfortune to the family.

As a result, women resort to village clinics or traditional healers, or use crude methods such as clothes hangers, hitting the stomach with stones, ingesting a lot of tea leaves, or a drug overdose, which can result in excessive bleeding and ultimately death in some cases.

Pregnant woman. Photo used with permission from str8talkchronicle.com.

Pregnant woman. Photo used with permission from str8talkchronicle.com.

Abortion activist and lawyer at Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda, Kaboneke Zaamu, recently said:

If the people who are supposed to provide the service do not understand the law, then how about a lay person in the village?

There are approximately 267,000 abortions carried out in Uganda every year; the Center for Reproductive Rights & Development (CEHURD) believes Uganda needs to do something about abortion and the law. The organisation has come up with a campaign to make sure the law is revised and also make it clear to local people and health practitioners on when they should help a woman to abort.

Not all Ugandans share this view. According to Silver Kayondo on Uganda Christian University website, abortion cannot be clearly legalised:

Even if some of the provisions in the P.C.A were inconsistent with the constitution, they would be null and void because article2 (2) of the constitution provides;”If any other law or custom is inconsistent with any of the provisions of this constitution, the constitution shall prevail…” For fellow Christians, the commandment from God is we should not kill.
God alone is the author of life and He alone can terminate it.

CEHURD is now working on a countrywide campaign to educate the nation about abortion and women's rights to receive medical help in instances of rape, incest and also when a woman's life is at risk.

Yet Ugandans are divided over the campaign, as netizens’ comments below show.

Bennie51 thinks its not fair for the unborn child's life to be ended:

What happens to the poor unborn child “protect, promote and fulfil human rights”. that child does not deserve to die. All measures possible shoud be put in place to avoid unwanted pregnancies. However once pregnacy has occured, then women whould go through and give birth

Josephrubs asks whether fetuses do not have a right to life:

How do you define unwanted pregnancies? In most cases, having sex is a choice..on just few cases are people forced into sex. While you claim human rights, dont foetuses have a right to life. Practically, as long as they are formed, it is life already. Which part of Ugandan schools has no minimum access to information on safe sex? Stop promoting people's carelessness! If you cant have safe sex, then leave it unless you are raped!!

Eventmobil replies to Josephrubs’ comment:

Your comment makes no sense in the light of the Ugandan ‘president’ currently trying to ban sexual education from schools. This leaves even more little girls as UNKNOWING VICTIMS TO OLDER RELATIVES AND NEIGHBOURS. Knowing nothing about contraception and sexuality makes the children even more curious and brings high risks for (DEFINATELY) unwanted pregnancies. For me, I teach my little girls EXACTLY about sexuality, contraception and family planning, and also about the right to say “NO” to any dirty old man who tries to approach them.

Paul thinks abortion is murder to the unborn child and asks whether teaching students about abortion will not only teach them how to take innocent lives:

 Abortion is murder! Do you want to teach school children how to kill innocent human life? Think about it….

Kojjauncle argues that its better to teach girls how to avoid unwanted pregnancies instead of teaching them how to end pregnancies:

WHY NOT SOLVE WHAT LEADS TO ABORTIONS?? ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO HAVE SAFE SEX IF THEY MUST… ABORTION IS REAL MURDER! YOU CAN ONLY READ THIS AND COMMENT JUST BECAUSE YOU WERE NOT ABORTED. WHICH ASSURANCE TO YOU HAVE TO SAY THAT YOU WERE CONCEIVED AT THE MOST CONVENIENT MOMENT?? LOVE LIFE, STOP MURDER. ABORTION IS MURDER.. MOREOVER OF THE INNOCENT

watata says abortion is an ungodly act which Ugandans can't accept:

Ugandan can't accept such act. Please don't even try to talk about such ungodly act

Kamundu Moses is against strict laws against abortion leading to more maternal deaths and therefore asks policy makers to be more flexible:

With the strict law against abortion it is still being carried out behind doors leading to death of youthful Ugandans. It accounts for 26% cases of maternal death in Uganda.Russia with a strict law against abortion found 256 human embryos dumped in a forest of recent,Russian authorities are still investigating the origin of these human embryos.
Why can't our policy makers become flexible and revisit the law like western countries because the strict law is not doing much to curb the practice,it is instead putting people's lives at risk.

Namusisi Juliet notes that making abortion illegal in Uganda has led to many unskilled practitioners engaging in it:

 With this mentality of aborting being a crime in the laws of Uganda,has forced many unskilled practitioners to engage in it and therefore leading to deaths of many young women.I therefore suggest that awareness to the public on circumstances under which abortion should be practiced ,should be emphasized and those who engage in it illegally should be worked upon by the law.

Amooti Businge says:

Introduce sexual reproductive health education in schools, establish pregnancy/parents-to-be counselling services, change attitude to respect pregnancy outside marriage, especially, christians emphasing the role of Mary who became pregnant surprisingly outside of marriage, set up fund to help pregnant women. Otherwise with the reported failure of ABC in fight against HIV ugandan women are heading into more troubles.

A study by the Guttmacher Institute titled ‘Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress’ shows that 23% of women seeking abortions in Uganda go to traditional practitioners, 56% go to doctors or nurses, and 15% try to self-induce using highly dangerous, crude methods. About 5.5 million women in Africa risk their lives annually when they decide to terminate a pregnancy.

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