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World News | After Roe’s fall, religious conservative lobby boldly limits abortion in Africa

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NAIROBI (Kenya), July 2 (AP) — Nowhere in the world have higher rates of unsafe abortions or unwanted pregnancies than in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are often stigmatized for premarital pregnancies.

Efforts to legalize and make abortion safe in Africa were shaken when the U.S. Supreme Court terminated the nation’s abortion rights a year ago. Within days, Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maha Bio announced that his government would legalize abortion “at a time when women’s sexual and reproductive health rights are overturned or threatened.”

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But some American groups active in Africa, especially in Christian countries, are more daring. One of these is Family Watch International, a nonprofit Christian conservative organization whose anti-LGBTQ+ stance, anti-abortion activism, and “strong focus on Africa” ​​led to its designation as a hate organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In April, Family Watch International helped convene a conference on “Family Values ​​and Sovereignty” in the Ugandan President’s Office with lawmakers and other representatives from more than 20 African countries. The group’s Africa director has also advocated for his country, Ethiopia, to repeal a 2005 law that expanded access to abortion and drastically reduced maternal mortality.

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“It’s kind of like taking off the gloves,” Sarah Shaw, communications director at MSI Reproductive Choices, an international reproductive health provider in the UK, said in an interview.

In a speech at the African Bar Association in September, Sharon Slater, president of International Family Watch, claimed that donor countries were trying to “recolonize Africa’s sexual society” through illegal abortion as well as sex education and LGBTQ+ rights.

“Sexual rights activists know that if they can capture the hearts of African children and indoctrinate and sexualize them, they will capture future lawyers, teachers, judges, politicians, presidents, vice presidents, etc. Heart. Africa,” Slater claimed.

Her speech in Malawi was attended by the country’s president and former leader of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God movement.

After lobbying lawmakers in the southern African country not to consider a bill that would allow abortion in certain circumstances, the U.S.-based Catholic organization Human Life International told its supporters in March, “Thanks to you , Malawi is safe from legal abortion.”

Twenty years ago, the African Union recognized the right to abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the life of the mother or fetus was threatened or the mental or physical health of the mother was threatened.

A growing number of countries have relatively lenient abortion laws. Benin legalized abortion less than a year before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, although Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, only allows abortions to save the life of the mother.

African experts say events in the United States could reverse progress in safe abortion procedures, especially since the U.S. government is the world’s largest donor of international reproductive health aid.

The Guttmacher Institute, an international research and policy organization, said such changes could seriously affect the lives of women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 77 percent of abortions, more than 6 million a year, are unsafe. 2020 said in New York.

The U.N. agency said last year that in the World Health Organization’s main sub-Saharan Africa region, 16 percent of maternal deaths were caused by unsafe abortions, “with variations across countries depending on how restrictive abortion is.”

Abortion opponents have been especially vocal in East Africa, where countries openly discuss teen pregnancy but offer little sex education or legal abortion in limited circumstances.

The sexual and reproductive health bill proposed in 2021 is still being discussed in the East African Community, which includes Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Some Catholic and other conservative groups have criticized a provision that would allow women to terminate pregnancies in cases of rape, incest or threats to their health.

Earlier this year, the Protestant Council of Rwanda directed all health facilities run by its member institutions to stop abortions, even though Rwandan law allows abortions in certain circumstances.

“We have very strong backlash,” Brenda Otieno, research coordinator at Kenya’s Kisumu Health and Education Trust, told a webinar Tuesday on the global implications of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. rights speech.”

Abortion providers are routinely harassed, Otino said, and Kenya passed a national reproductive health policy a year ago with little focus on safe abortion care.

In Uganda, a rights watchdog says the question of abortion is a taboo and abortion advocates face discrimination, even as some women resort to self-harm.

“We’ve seen many lives lost,” said Tewaib Vamara, executive director of the Uganda Harm Reduction Network.

Abortion is illegal in Uganda, but can be performed legally if a licensed medical practitioner believes the pregnancy will threaten the life of the mother. But many doctors fear medical complications and only offer post-abortion care that may be too expensive or too late to save a woman’s life.

In Ethiopia, civil society workers are asking the government to investigate emerging trends they fear: Fewer public health facilities offering abortion services, while more women seek care after unsafe abortions.

Abebe Sibru, Ethiopian director of MSI Reproductive Options, said anti-abortion groups in Africa’s second most populous country were largely inflamed by outsiders and “see the Supreme Court ruling as their fuel.” . (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have modified or edited the body of content)


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