U.N. Committee Calls on Uganda to Reform Abortion Laws

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(PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) has called on the Ugandan government to reform and clarify its laws severely restricting abortion services.

In its concluding observations, the committee recommended that Uganda consider decriminalizing abortion and expanding the circumstances under which services are made legal and available. Further, the committee called on Ugandan officials to immediately improve awareness among women and health care officials in the country about the country’s existing abortion laws and available services for safe care following unsafe abortion. The committee also called for immediate steps to eradicate the continued practice of early and forced marriage in the country.

Ahead of these new recommendations, the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted to the committee its 2013 report, The Stakes Are High: The Tragic Impact of Unsafe Abortion and Inadequate Access to Contraception in Uganda, which documents personal stories of women impacted by the widespread and false impression by even health care professionals that abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Uganda—when in fact the country’s laws permit abortion for women with life-threatening conditions and victims of sexual assault.

Said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“For too long, countless Ugandan women are forced to take illegal and unsafe measures to end their pregnancies due to severe criminal laws and deep confusion about critical services that are in fact legally available.

“It is time Uganda immediately reform these harsh laws and increase awareness among women and their health care professionals of available family planning and safe abortion services.” 

Unsafe abortion is one of the most easily preventable causes of maternal mortality, yet more than a quarter of maternal deaths in the country occur because of unsafe abortion, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Health in Uganda. Many of these deaths are in large part because of confusion and ignorance of reproductive health laws.

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