REFLECTION: International Safe Abortion Day 2023
Theme: Call to Action : Unstoppable Movements: Movement Building, Solidarity & Justice for the Right to Safe Abortion
28 September is the annual day of action in support of the right to safe abortion. It has been celebrated since 1990 in Latin America, and since 2011 around the world. Recent years have seen hundreds of activities in dozens of countries across all global regions.
28 September marks the annual International Safe Abortion Day.
Lack of access to safe abortion results in 45% of all abortions globally being unsafe. Unsafe abortion remains a catastrophic public health problem accounting for up to 13% of maternal mortality worldwide, or around 47,000 deaths, with hundreds of thousands of survivors living with long-term complications, including infertility and chronic pain. Of these unsafe abortions, 97% take place in South and Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
More still in 2017 the WHO estimated that around 295,000 women worldwide die from complications related to pregnancy, childbirth, puerperal complications and abortion each year. Sub-Saharan Africa (Cameroon inclusive) and South Asia account for nearly 86% of these deaths, with around two-thirds for sub-Saharan Africa alone.
Despite efforts made to curb maternal mortality, it remains high in Cameroon.
Indeed, the maternal mortality rate by the National Institute of Statistics dropped from 782 deaths per 100,000 live births (ESDC-IV) in 2011 to 406 deaths per 100,000 live births (EDS-MICS) in 2018. In addition, about one in 50 women will die from maternal causes during her reproductive life under the current fertility and mortality conditions in Cameroon.
Unsafe abortion is defined as a procedure of terminating pregnancy either by a person who lacks the necessary skills or in an environment where minimum medical standards are not met or both.
According to UN reports, each year, 21.6 million unsafe abortions are performed and almost one in 10 pregnancies ends with this practice.
This demonstrates the magnitude of this public health problem, which is also a major cause of maternal mortality, especially in low- and middle-income regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.
In this region, the maternal mortality rate linked to unsafe abortions is 37 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is compounded by the presence of restrictive abortion laws in some countries like in Cameroon which is limited to when the mother’s life is in danger and secondly when the pregnancy resulted from rape.
It is a fact that, data on unsafe abortions in Cameroon and the complications associated with this practice are scarce. Reports from international and national bodies also indicate unsafe abortion is amongst the key causes of maternal mortality and the restriction of the law accompanied by the process would not prevent women from having an abortion, but would make abortions riskier with all the consequences that follow.
The importance of this day resonates with SOGOC’s Advocacy for Comprehensive Abortion Care ACAC project which is advocating for improved safe abortion access in the country and for improved processes for rape survivors accessing safe abortion, with a wider long-term aim of domesticating the Maputo Protocol in Cameroon.
It is within this backdrop that we encourage government and policy makers to use this day and reflect on how to make accessible abortion services to save more lives.