Sub-Saharan Africa, is facing new challenges in its fight to legalize and improve access to safe abortions.
These setbacks come in the wake of the US Supreme Court's decision to end the national right to abortion, which has emboldened anti-abortion organizations operating in Africa.
Family Watch International, a US-based Christian conservative organization with a focus on Africa, has played a significant role in influencing policies and mobilizing against abortion in the region.
The organization's activities have led to its designation as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In collaboration with African lawmakers, Family Watch International organized a meeting centered on "family values and sovereignty" in Uganda, drawing participants from over 20 African countries. The organization is also pushing for the revocation of a 2005 law in Ethiopia that expanded abortion access and reduced maternal mortality.
Experts warn that these developments could reverse progress in providing safe abortion procedures, particularly since the US government is the largest global donor of international reproductive health assistance.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 77% of abortions are unsafe, the consequences of restricted access to safe abortions are dire. Unsafe abortions contribute to 16% of maternal deaths in the region, according to the World Health Organization.
The East African Community, which includes Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, is currently debating a sexual and reproductive health bill. However, conservative organizations, including some Catholic groups, have criticized the bill's provisions allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, or endangered health.
The repercussions of restricted abortion rights are already evident in countries like Kenya and Uganda. In Kenya, abortion providers face harassment, and a national reproductive health policy passed last year paid little attention to safe abortion care.
In Uganda, where abortion is illegal except when a licensed medical worker deems it necessary to save the mother's life, advocates for abortion face discrimination, and many women resort to self-mutilation.
Ethiopia has also witnessed a concerning trend, with fewer public health facilities providing abortions and an increase in women seeking care after unsafe abortions. Organizations opposing abortion in the country, often influenced by external actors, have used the US Supreme Court decision to further their agenda.
The future of abortion rights in Africa remains uncertain, with concerns growing about the impact on women's reproductive health and rights. Efforts to expand access to safe abortion procedures face resistance from conservative organizations and a lack of comprehensive sex education. As the fight for reproductive rights continues, the lives and well-being of women in sub-Saharan Africa hang in the balance.