Uganda: The legal laws on abortion are outdated and needs to be advanced

Abortion in Uganda

One day, I was at a clinic in Kampala and I saw a woman leaving the clinic, walking gingerly, clutching their lower abdomens. I saw the boyfriend pacing awkwardly outside. I saw the scared girl go in, and leave with a bag of pills. I saw health workers leave at closing time, I saw the “doctor” leave that night, and I said an extra prayer for the woman to survive

Abortion continues to pose a serious public health threat thus affecting thousands of women and girls in Uganda.

Like when a young woman/girl decides to terminate her pregnancy, we shouldn’t question her and it does not matter whether the procedures she uses are legal, safe or not.

Every day, Uganda loses 16 women due to preventable causes and if every young woman/girl could access contraception she wanted, maternal deaths could be averted every single day 

In Uganda, the legal status of abortion is restrictive and there are no open options to access safe abortions services and women resort to unsafe alternatives for termination of a pregnancy

The unsafe abortion has become the only valid alternatives in Uganda for women and girls to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and for a long time, Uganda has maintained a restrictive legal framework on termination, it only permits abortion where necessary to save the life of a woman.

It is sad that the unsafe abortion is the leading preventable cause of maternal mortality and ­we should all be reminded that the unsafe abortion is done by unqualified people, some drink local herbals to terminate the pregnancy and this results in complications for the women who use them, some die during the unsafe abortion process

The 1995 Constitution of Uganda, Article 22(2) says; “No person has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child except as authorized by law” yet the law is still confusing and some health workers are using it to torture those who want to terminate.

Do you know that the government of Uganda spends a lot of money treating complications resulting from unsafe abortion and yet the budget allocations to the Ministry of Health are very low?

Women who get unplanned pregnancies and needs abortion care services are willing to pay any amount of money to get the pregnancy terminated which sometimes it is done in an unsafe way

Sometimes, I feel like the people are not aware of these laws, yes they should not know about it because of its even outdated and needs to be advanced. The problem of unsafe abortion is manifested in so many ways which include culture, religion, and public health perception 

To reduce on these unsafe abortion, unplanned pregnancies, HIV in the country we have to encourage and promote sex education in schools such that young people can make informed choices and as young people, we need to be the change and advocate for reform of the abortion law to align with the realities of the situation in Uganda 

Finally, the parliament should revisit the law and legalize abortion because they are many valid reasons why one would want to terminate the pregnancy and we need to respect women’s right 

Respect Women’s Health Rights. Let them take charge of their own bodies

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Frank Byaruhanga is a human rights activist with years of experience in community dialogues, digital communication, advocacy and digital campaigns. He specializes in Media Relation Work, Management and Training with sufficient knowledge in Governance, Accountability, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Youth-led research, Content developer, Creative Activism, Social Media Management and documentary photography.

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