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Thousands of women in sub-Saharan Africa die every year from pregnancy-related causes. According to the WHO, unsafe abortions account for one in seven maternal deaths in Africa, and more than 1.5 million women are treated each year for complications from unsafe abortion. Young African women are especially affected: More than half of unsafe abortions in the region are among women under the age of 25.
To reduce deaths from unsafe abortion, women need access to equitable and comprehensive reproductive health services, including contraception, safe abortion, and post-abortion care.
The SAFE ENGAGE (Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy to Expand Access to Safe Abortion) project supports access to safe abortion by providing decisionmakers with the latest data on abortion and maternal health. By providing advocates, journalists and other decision makers with the latest evidence, the aim is that policy goals can be achieved and abortion can be accurately reported.
To frame policy discussion, particularly in Africa, the following global and country-specific multimedia advocacy tools are available:
- Within Reach: Expanding Access to Safe Abortion
- Pas une seule femme refoulée: élargir l’accès à des soins complets de santé reproductive en Côte d’Ivoire
- Expanding Access to Safe Abortion in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Out of the Shadows: Saving Women’s Lives From Unsafe Abortion in Lagos State
- Breaking the Silence: Expanding Access to Safe Abortion in Zimbabwe
The global SAFE ENGAGE, Within Reach: Expanding Access to Safe Abortion, uses the latest data and evidence to illustrate how policy changes can decrease maternal mortality by improving equitable access to safe abortion services.
To ensure that women and girls who need abortion have access to safe, legal procedures, Within Reach recommends the following actions for global and national leaders:
- Governments should revise abortion laws to give women and girls greater access to safe procedures, free from shame and stigma. Health ministries should ensure women have access to abortion in all circumstances allowed under existing laws. The African Union provides guidance that can help health ministries to align their laws with the Maputo Protocol.
- Governments should adopt and disseminate guidelines for providing safe and comprehensive abortion services, and ensure providers have the skills, resources, and support to provide services safely. The World Health Organization has published evidence-based standards and guidelines for providing comprehensive abortion care that have been adopted around the world.
- Governments should promote widespread access to information on contraception, counseling, and a full range of effective contraceptive methods to enable women to plan and space their pregnancies at a time that is right for them and their families. Increasing access to contraception is particularly important as many couples today want smaller families than their parents had.
Advocates can use Within Reach: Expanding Access to Safe Abortion and the geographically-specific ENGAGES for Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, and Lagos State in Nigeria, as well as materials for the Democratic Republic of Congo, to make the case for safe abortion with policy audiences and influencers around the world.
All presentations and materials are available for download, and key messages and infographics can be easily shared online via the global SAFE ENGAGE social media toolkit. Watch for the Burkina Faso ENGAGE resources coming soon.