No contraception and botched abortions way of life in Uganda

Posted Nov 22, 2013 by Karen Graham
In Uganda, abortions are historically a subject people don't talk about. Most women think abortions are illegal, and this has resulted in fear and secrecy because of a lack of clarity over Uganda's abortion laws by its government.
Every day at least five women are brought to the gynaecological ward of Uganda’s Mulago National R...
Every day at least five women are brought to the gynaecological ward of Uganda’s Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala for treatment for complications caused by crude attempts to terminate their pregnancies.
Inter Press Service / Andrew Green
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) released a report on Wednesday that outlined the lack of understanding of Uganda's legal abortion laws. The report found that in many places in Commonwealth East Africa, the existing abortion laws are thought to be totally restrictive, and while this is not the case, the lack of clarity surrounding abortion rights has created a barrier to obtaining a safe abortion.
Uganda is considered to be the one country in the world today where contraception has the highest unmet need. Because of this sobering statistic, as many as 300,000 young women every year seek abortions, mainly on backstreets and in alleys. Of the 300,000 women seeking an abortion, 85,000 of them will need to be treated for either sepsis or hemorrhaging due to unsterile or botched procedures. Of this number, 1,500 women will die from complications.
To further understand the seriousness of the problem, 4 out of 10 pregnancies in Uganda are unwanted. One in five of those pregnancies is terminated in an unsafe abortion, and one in four of these unsafe procedures will result in death.
Those women unable to find someone to perform a street-corner abortion will try home-remedies, like swallowing gasoline, or sitting in a tub of warm detergent and swallowing bleach. Others are so desperate that they will insert whatever objects they happen to have around.
There are several issues that come together to escalate the problem facing Ugandan women. At the government level, abortions are legal when the mother has been raped or when the woman's physical or mental health is in danger. The penal code, on the other hand, makes unlawful abortions a criminal offense.
This is a problem because of a lack of clarity in explaining the laws, not only to the general public, but to health care professionals, as well. There is also a lack of information regarding family planning and reproductive rights for women.
The lack of access to contraception is a big problem. A 2011 study found that contraceptive use was often based on socio-economic status. Urban, married women were able to get contraceptives easier than poor, rural women, who also were less educated.
Another problem was the attitudes of Ugandan men in regards to using contraception. Most men believe that contraception causes cancer and infertility, and many men also say they don't want their partner to use contraception because they fear her having an extra-marital affair.
But even outlining all the various reasons for not using some form of contraception cannot get rid of one major underlying issue. Teenagers and young women who have sexual relations, for whatever their reasons, know that if they get pregnant they will have to get an illegal abortion. The reason is twofold. First, because they are not married, they are fearful of trying to get contraception. Secondly, when they get pregnant, the fear of getting a legal abortion is greater than trying to abort the fetus any way they can.
It is going to take a bigger effort on the part of the Ugandan government to get planned parenting, contraception information and a clearer explanation of abortion laws and women's rights to out to the public. It is also going to take a concerted effort by health professionals, working with government officials to make inroads in securing the trust of the general public, especially the younger generation. This will be the only way to save Uganda's women.