The Ministry of Health has reported that many women face difficulties accessing post-abortion care due to the stigma surrounding abortion. Despite the government’s efforts to provide medical care for mothers in need of post-abortion care, a significant number of women continue to experience complications and even die without seeking help.
Dr. Charles Olaro, the Director of Curative Services in the Health Ministry, disclosed this information during a recent press conference. He emphasized that, despite awareness campaigns about available services to assist women dealing with post-abortion complications, some women still provide incorrect information to healthcare providers, leading to complications.
Dr. Olaro’s remarks came ahead of the World Contraception Day commemoration event scheduled for Saturday in Kyenjojo. He noted that unsafe abortions contribute significantly to maternal mortality, accounting for 10% of all cases. Currently, Uganda’s maternal mortality rate stands at an estimated 189 women per 10,000 live births.
It’s important to mention that abortion is generally illegal in Uganda, as outlined in Article 22 of the 1995 Constitution, which protects the right to life and restricts abortion unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother. The Penal Code Act of Uganda Cap 120 also imposes criminal penalties on various aspects of abortion, including healthcare workers who assist in illegal abortions. Convicted healthcare workers may face three years in prison, while pregnant women who undergo illegal abortions could be sentenced to seven years.
Activists have long criticized these laws, arguing that they contribute to unsafe abortions and deter women from seeking post-abortion care. Rose Wakikona, a Senior Attorney at Women’s Link Worldwide, pointed out that while there are limitations in the law, safe abortions are still possible. However, challenges arise when healthcare workers misinterpret the law and deny women the care they need.
Additionally, it is noted that a majority of women resorting to unsafe abortions are young girls who find themselves in unintended pregnancies. To address this issue, Esther Makula, a Communications Officer at Naguru Teenage Health and Information Center, mentioned that they are actively providing information to teenage girls to raise awareness. They have established thirty-four youth-friendly corners in public health facilities nationwide to address specific health concerns of youth.
According to statistics from the Health Ministry, 75 billion Ugandan shillings were allocated for post-abortion care during the last financial year.