September 6, 2013 — Recent reports suggest that the number of unsafe abortions is increasing in Africa, where the procedure is banned or heavily restricted in most countries, Religion News Service/Washington Post's "On Faith" reports.
Faced with few options for legal abortions, women seeking to end pregnancies in Africa turn to traditional healers, who often use unsafe methods; nurses, who generally offer safer care; attempt to self-induce an abortion; or seek abortion-inducing drugs from a pharmacist.
More than six million unsafe abortions take place in Africa annually, resulting in about 29,000 deaths, and another 1.7 million women are hospitalized each year from complications related to unsafe abortions, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.
Research from the Guttmacher Institute found that only 3% of abortions in Africa are performed under safe conditions.
Groups for and against abortion rights take opposing stances on whether the number of unsafe procedures is increasing. According to Guttmacher, any increase in the number of abortions is mostly the result of an increased number of women of reproductive age.
A report last month by the African Population and Health Research Center found that there were more than 460,000 illegal abortions in Kenya in 2012, representing a 48% increase from the 300,000 estimated to occur in previous years. The report also found that 64% of married Kenyan women have had at least one abortion and that 70% of them did not use contraception.
Officials from the Catholic Church and some Islamic groups described the findings as inflated. They said people should be wary of statistics that could influence them to accept the legalization of abortion.
Some African governments are responding to the new statistics by issuing contraceptives, and there are increased calls for legalized abortion, as well. However, some conservative religious groups contend that contraception is not the answer and will lead to more promiscuity (Nzwili, "On Faith," Washington Post, 9/4).