Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Access to abortion in Africa and Latin America: a question of public health and social inequality

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.7 million unsafe abortions are conducted every year in Latin America and the Caribbean, which comes down to nearly one abortion for every three live births.

In Africa, where 99% of these interventions are done illegally, the number of unsafe abortions is estimated at 4.2 million, representing one abortion for seven live births.

In order better to understand the changes and developments of the situation on these two continents, a research team jointly involving the IRD and “El Colegio de Mexico” examined the results of a range of studies conducted since the early 1990s, approaching this question from a social sciences angle (profile of women concerned by abortion, consequences for their health and life in society, the role of men and so on).

They also looked at the legislation on abortion rights, changes in it over the past 15 years and the debates that run concerning these questions. The legislative framework for abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean remains restrictive, but it is even more so in the African countries where it is founded on laws dating from the colonial period.

Data in the area of abortion is still highly fragmented, difficult to obtain owing to the heavy legal and social penalties women risk if they decide to have an abortion in countries where this act is of limited access, even if not completely prohibited. For Latin America, apart from a study run in urban areas of Colombia, wide-ranging surveys based on representative samples of the population are lacking. In Africa, there is still no public debate on the question of abortion, and the few studies conducted, most often among women who were victims of medical complications, showed a particularly marked rise of such interventions in urban areas.

At present, although none of the 53 countries on the African continent totally forbid abortion, only Cap Verde, Tunisia and South Africa permit abortion on the woman’s demand. Since the Cairo Conference of 1994, during which the African countries made a commitment to respect women’s reproductive rights, 20 of them have made small improvements to the legal framework for abortion.

However, in reality, the progress made is quite limited, pregnancy termination most often being allowed strictly for medical reasons. The legal conditions for access to abortion have indeed worsened since the mid 1990s, becoming more restrictive in four countries of Africa. Congo, Malawi and Swaziland now allow it only as a means of saving the mother’s life. Algeria only accepts it for such a circumstance and to preserve the woman’s physical or mental health, like 17 countries of 41 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2006, six other countries (Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, the Dutch part of Saint Martin, Nicaragua) it was still prohibited. Feminist groups and a civil organization of Catholic women in these countries (“Catholics for the right to decide”), are campaigning for decriminalization of abortion. But these movements are confronted with the conservative positions of the institutions, associations and even health care professionals who sometimes oppose pro-abortion legislation for ethical or religious reasons.

The researchers also sought to define better the profile of women who resort to abortion. In principle, the practice concerns all women of child-bearing age. However, in reality teenage girls are the most concerned by unsafe practices. The absence of recognition of their sexuality, or even pure and simple prohibition, makes access to contraception complicated for them, making abortion quite frequent among young women. Yet scientific data on this question for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are still extremely patchy.

Better knowledge of the situation is essential for defining suitable health policies, making changes to abortion legislation possible and increasing awareness among the different social actors about the health and social repercussions that can be engendered by a legal framework that penalizes abortion. From the public health point of view, unsafe abortion practices significantly accentuate maternal mortality, but limited access to abortion and non respect of reproductive rights also make it a question of social injustice.

Grégory Fléchet | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Illinois researchers researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected
21.02.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Polluted air may pollute our morality
08.02.2018 | Association for Psychological Science

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>