Friday, February 20, 2015

Blog #3: The Right to Abortion Care May Be One Step Closer to Reality for African Women

The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa gave African Women the right to abortion, on paper, in 2003.  Fifty-four "member states" of the African Union have adopted this protocol, and many have ratified it since; the problem has been that African Women still lack access to contraception, face high risks of sexual violence, and maternal mortality.  Many of these deaths are due in part to unsafe abortion practices, with African women comprising 62 percent of deaths from unsafe abortion worldwide back in 2008. To improve the conditions of women's reproductive healthcare, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights adopted General Comment No. 2 which provides guidance on aiding the government in implementing the articles of the protocol - guaranteeing the right to obtain abortions, allowing women to control their fertility through contraception, and access to family planning and other health services. The General Comment states that these services must be made accessible, of good quality, and advised removing barriers to such care, including third-party consent laws. In the end, making these services available to the women who seek them, in accordance with the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, involves the decriminalization of women who seek the services, making the services readily accessible and of good quality, and allowing these women to take their healthcare and futures into their own hands in a safe, responsible and dignified manner.

I view the lack of these services to these women as an injustice.  It's simply unfair for the service to be legalized, yet political and legal barriers are implemented to restrict their access to these services.  I feel that the General Comment will be effective, because it gives the country an outside or neutral perspective on the situation. For example, it really stood out to me that many facilities require a third-party consent in order for the abortion to take place. The fault in this is that women seeking abortions are doing so in the hopes that their husbands or fathers will never have to know; however, when they have to have the consent of the people they want to avoid knowing, they seek other ways to eradicate their problem.  This is where the coat hanger method of abortion becomes more prevalent and more of an issue, leading to the high rates of maternal morality in Africa, even after the enactment of the Protocol. Since the General Comment was just adopted last year, I hope that it will soon turn around the injustices these women have been facing for the last twelve years since the implementation of the Protocol, and soon allow more equitable access to female reproductive healthcare.

Megan Wrench

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