HowToUse has been on a mission to generate awareness about safe abortion in Eastern Africa. Of all the countries where they work, Uganda has proven to be particularly complex.
Uganda is among the many countries in the word that legally restrict women from accessing safe abortion options. However, the specifics of the legal restrictions within the country are extraordinarily- and perhaps intentionally- vague.
The Ugandan Constitution states, “No person has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child except as may be authorized by law.” The Constitution does not, however, elaborate on what that law may be.
To add to the confusion, sections of the Penal Code Act seemingly contradict each other. Section 224 of the Code says that surgical abortion is permitted in order to save a woman’s life. However, Section 141, 142, and 143 state that both women who have abortions and the healthcare providers who perform them can be sentenced to imprisonment ranging between 3-14 years.
Because of this ambiguity, medical providers are often reluctant to perform an abortion for fear of legal prosecution. Women are also uncertain of whether or not they qualify under the law for an abortion.
Many health and civil society organizations have called upon the Ugandan Parliament to clarify- and expand- the legal access to safe abortion in the country. However, to date no modifications have been made.
Regardless of these legal grey areas, access to safe abortion services remains far out of reach for many women and girls in Uganda. The country is home to intense abortion stigma that itself serves as an obstacle to comprehensive reproductive health care.
This complex legal and social backdrop set the stage for HowToUse to launch both online and offline outreach strategies designed specifically for Uganda. Most recently, the HowToUse team held two events to raise awareness about safe abortion and rally allies.
In November, HowToUse hosted a partnership workshop to convene representatives from organizations with a sexual and reproductive health focus, and together explored safe abortion within a public health context. Participants included professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds, including health, law, media, civil society organizers, youth advocates, and student organizations.
Just one month later, the HowToUse team met with medical students to introduce them to the HowToUse website as a resource platform and share information about safe medical abortion.
Both events were highly successful, and HowToUse plans to continue outreach in the country through 2018. For more updates on news, trends and research on abortion on this region and other parts of the world, visit the HowToUse blog.