According to the World Health Organization, 4.7–13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion each year. Usually, Six out of 10 of all unintended pregnancies end in an induced abortion. Around 45% of all abortions are unsafe, of which 97% take place in developing countries.
In Cameroon particularly, unsafe abortion remains a leading – but preventable – cause of maternal deaths and morbidities. It can lead to physical and mental health complications, and social and financial burdens for women, communities and health systems
Cameroon signed the MAPUTO protocol in July 2006 and went ahead to ratify the protocol in 2013 Article 14 2(C) of the protocol, states should take appropriate measures to protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus.
Despite this, the law of Cameroon regarding the subject of abortion as stated in article 339 of the penal code remains highly restrictive. The law allows abortion in only two instances; when the pregnancy is as a result of rape and when the continuation of the pregnancy endangers the physical health of the mother. The discrepancies between article 339 of the penal code and article 14 C 2 of the Maputo protocol.
Cameroon’s laws on abortion have come under criticisms especially from civil society organizations working in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as they believe that the government of Cameroon is not doing enough to protect the reproductive rights of women. They believe that the high toll of maternal death prevalence in Cameroon is intricately linked to the stringent abortion regulations in the country. This has birthed several advocacy movements towards the reforms of the Cameroon penal code on the issue. It is in this light that SOGOC and 20 other organizations working in the areas came together to form a network with the objective of advocating for an enabling environment for increased access to comprehensive abortion care services.
Four years of existence of the network and great progress have been made in this advocacy. Over 100,000 people have been reached through several sensitization campaigns carried out by the network. More than 17 journalists have been boarded, and these journalists took commitment to provide visibility on abortion reporting and so on. They are doing an excellent job with mainstreaming abortion in the media.
This advocacy network has been able to mobilize grassroots support most importantly; they have become a point of reference for Safe abortion advocacy in Central Africa. They continue to make giant strides in their quest for legal and administrative reforms of abortion laws in Cameroon.