Abortions are legal in most parts of Africa. But few women may be aware of this, and providers do not advertise it – Science News (Trending Perfect)


ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — When Efua, a 25-year-old fashion designer and single mother in Ghana, became pregnant last year, she She sought an abortion In a health clinic but I am concerned that this procedure may be illegal. Health workers emphasized that abortions were legal under certain circumstances The country located in West AfricaBut Efua said she was still nervous.

“I had a lot of questions, just to make sure I would be safe,” Efua told The Associated Press, on the condition that only her middle name be used, fearing retaliation from the growing anti-abortion movement in her country.

She said finding reliable information was difficult, and she did not tell her family about the procedure she underwent. “It comes with a lot of judgment,” she decided.

More than 20 countries All over Africa Restrictions on abortion have eased in recent years, but experts say that like Efua, many women may not realize they are entitled to a legal abortion. Although the procedure's legality has expanded in places like Ghana, Congo, Ethiopia and Mozambique, some doctors and nurses say they have become increasingly wary of performing abortions in public. They fear angering opposition groups that have become more emboldened since the US Supreme Court's 2022 decision to strike down the right to abortion nationwide.

“We provide a legal service to women who want an abortion, but we do not advertise it publicly,” said Essie Asare Brah, who works at the clinic where Efua had the procedure, which is legal under Ghana's law, which was passed in 1985. I've found that people are OK with our clinic providing abortions, as long as we don't make what we do too obvious.

The Maputo Protocol, a human rights treaty in force since 2005 for all 55 African Union countries, stipulates that every country on the continent must grant women the right to medical abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault, incest and endangerment to the life of the woman. The mental or physical health of the mother or fetus.

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Africa is the only country in the world with such a treaty, but more than a dozen of its countries have yet to pass laws giving women access to abortions. Even in countries that have legalized this procedure, there are still obstacles to access. Misinformation is widespread in many countries, as a recent study pointed to wrong practices conducted by Google and Meta.

Evelyn Opondo, of the International Center for Women's Research, said: “The right to abortion exists in law, but in practice, the reality may be slightly different.” She noted that poor countries in particular, such as Benin and Ethiopia, may allow abortions in some cases but suffer from a lack of resources to make them available to all women. Many women learn their options only through word of mouth.

Across Africa, MSI Reproductive Choices – which provides contraception and abortion in 37 countries around the world – reports that staff have been repeatedly targeted by anti-abortion groups. The group reports harassment and intimidation of employees in Ethiopia. In Nigeria, an MSI clinic was raided and temporarily closed after false allegations that staff had illegally accessed confidential documents.

“Opposition to abortion in Africa has always been there, but it is now better organised,” said Mallah Taboot, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in Kenya. She noted that much of the money supporting anti-abortion efforts appears to have come from conservative American groups. And severalI found the reports Millions of this funding is from conservative Christian organizations.

Angela Akol, of the reproductive rights advocacy group Ibas, said the spike in the number of opposition groups is worrying.

“We have seen them in Kenya and Uganda calling at the highest levels of government to limit access to abortion,” she said. “There are patriarchal and misogynistic norms in most parts of Africa. … The West is seizing on this momentum after the rollback of Roe v. Wade to challenge abortion rights here.

Congo, one of the world's poorest countries, passed a law in 2018 allowing abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest and other physical or mental health risks to the woman.

However, posts directed at women who might want an abortion use coded language, says Patrick Djimo, of MSI in Congo.

“We are talking about managing unwanted pregnancies,” he said, noting that they do not use the word abortion. “This could cause a backlash.”

It can also be difficult to find accurate language and information online. Last week, a study by MSI and the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that Google and Meta — which runs Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — have restricted access to accurate information about abortion in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

The study said the tech giants blocked local abortion providers from advertising services while approving paid ads from anti-abortion groups pushing false claims about decriminalization efforts as part of a global conspiracy to “eliminate” local populations.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on the study. Meta said via email that its platforms “prohibit ads that mislead people about the services the company provides” and that it would review the report.

Opondo, of the International Center for Women, said she is deeply concerned about the future of abortion rights movements in Africa, where opponents are using the same tactics that helped bring down Roe v. Wade in the United States.

However, she said that currently “it is probably easier for a woman in Benin to get an abortion than in Texas.”

For Efua, information and cost were obstacles. She scraped together the necessary 1,000 Ghana cedi ($77) to have the abortion after asking a friend for help.

She said she hopes women can easily obtain reliable information, especially in light of the physical and mental pressure she has been exposed to. She said she would not have been able to handle another child on her own, and believes many other women face similar dilemmas.

“If you're pregnant and you're not prepared, it can affect you mentally and for the rest of your life,” she said.

Cheng reported from London.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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