AFRICA- In sub-Saharan Africa, where women often face scorn for becoming pregnant before marriage, unsafe abortions and unintended pregnancies are more frequent.
The U.S. Supreme Court ended the right to an abortion a year ago, shaking efforts to legalize and make abortions safer in Africa. After Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio announced decriminalization of abortion, he noted that women’s sexual and reproductive health rights have been threatened or overturned.
However, some U.S.-based organizations were emboldened, particularly in Christian countries. In one case, Family Watch International was designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTQ+ stance, anti-abortion activities, and a strong focus on Africa.
At Uganda’s presidential offices in April, Family Watch International helped organize a “family values and sovereignty” meeting with lawmakers and other delegates from more than 20 African nations. Additionally, the organization’s Africa director is seeking to revoke a 2005 law that expanded abortion access and dramatically reduced maternal mortality in Ethiopia.
“It’s kind of like the gloves are off,” Sarah Shaw, head of advocacy at U.K.-based MSI Reproductive Choices, an international provider of reproductive health services, said in an interview.
According to Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International – donor countries are attempting to “sexually socially recolonize Africa” by smuggling in abortion, sex education, and LGBTQ+ rights.
“Sexual rights activists know if they can capture the hearts and minds of Africa’s children and indoctrinate and sexualize them, they will capture the future lawyers, teachers, judges, politicians, presidents, vice presidents and more, and thus they will capture the very heart of Africa,” Slater claimed.Sharon Slater – Family Watch International
Pentecostal Assemblies of God leader and Malawian president attended her speech in Malawi.
According to Human Life International, “Thanks to your efforts, Malawi is now free from legal abortion”, even under certain circumstances, after lobbying lawmakers in the southern African nation not to consider such a law.
Two decades ago, the African Union recognized the right to abortion in cases of rape and incest or when the mother or fetus’ life is endangered or her mental or physical health is threatened.
Abortion laws are becoming more liberal in a growing number of countries. It was less than a year before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion is legal in Benin, even though Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, does not permit abortion unless it is necessary to save the mother’s life.
In light of the U.S. government’s role as the largest global donor of international reproductive health assistance, African experts say events in the U.S. could reverse gains in abortion availability.
In 2020, Guttmacher Institute, an international research and policy organization with headquarters in New York, said that 77% of abortions in sub-Saharan Africa, or more than 6 million a year, are deemed unsafe. These changes could have a significant impact on the lives of women of reproductive age.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 16% of maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions in the largely sub-Saharan Africa region, varying by country based on abortion restrictions.
Those opposed to abortion are especially vocal in East Africa, where countries are grappling with the issue of teen pregnancy but offer little sex education and limited access to abortions.