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Reproductive health and the politics of abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia, and Tanzania

© 02Marzo2010 Flickr via CompfightOrganized by Astrid Blystad, Karen Marie Moland, Haldis Haukanes, and Getnet Tadele
International Journal for Equity in Health

Reproductive health and abortion are highly politicized issues both on global and national levels and are subject to continuous contestations arising from questions about gender and equity, human rights, morality, religion, and cultural norms. The papers in this thematic collection spring out of a comparative and transnational research endeavor on competing normative processes and discourses on abortion and fertility control. The project investigated how international initiatives and national policies articulate with local moralities and practices related to fertility control and abortion among adolescents in the respective country contexts of Ethiopia, Zambia, and Tanzania. 

Unsafe abortion – which still is responsible for some 18% of all maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa – is one of the most neglected sexual and reproductive health problems in the world today. Unsafe abortion is closely linked to restrictive abortion laws, lack of knowledge of and access to contraception and safe abortion services. In this thematic collection particular attention is paid to the relationship between national abortion laws and policies, and women’s actual access to safe abortion services in the three countries. The papers demonstrate how the dynamics between national abortion laws and policies, and the religious and cultural landscapes in which abortion issues are set, generate unpredictable and at times paradoxical outcomes in terms of actual access to abortion services. It is not always the case that the most liberal law generates the easiest access. Furthermore, the practical difficulties related to the partial and often incomplete understanding of the complex webs of restrictions and opportunities have particular implications for the most vulnerable segments of the population. Inequity in access to safe abortion services puts young girls in rural areas in low-income countries at particular risk of complications and death from illegal unsafe procedures. Through the comparative research presented here, we hope to shed light on the articulation between the legal, political, social, and cultural conditions that work to enhance or hinder access to safe abortion services. 

This research was funded by the Research Council of Norway (2016-2018, project no. 249686: Competing discourses impacting girls’ and women’s rights. Access to safe abortion and fertility control in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania [SAFEZT]). Publication charges were covered by the University of Bergen. All articles have undergone the journal’s standard peer-review process and the organizers and journal Editors declare no competing interests.

Further articles will be added in due course following peer review.

  1. Content type: Research

    At the turn of the century, when the Millennium Development Goals placed maternal mortality reduction high on the global agenda, Ethiopia relaxed its restrictive abortion law to expand grounds on which a woman...

    Authors: Getnet Tadele, Haldis Haukanes, Astrid Blystad and Karen Marie Moland

    Citation: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 18:138

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  2. Content type: Research

    Unsafe abortion continues to be a major hazard for maternal health in Sub-Saharan Africa, where abortion remains highly controversial and access to safe abortion services is unequally distributed. Although nat...

    Authors: Richard Sambaiga, Haldis Haukanes, Karen Marie Moland and Astrid Blystad

    Citation: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 18:135

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  3. Content type: Research

    Unsafe abortion is a major contributor to the continued high global maternal mortality and morbidity rates. Legal abortion frameworks and access to sexuality education and contraception have been pointed out a...

    Authors: Astrid Blystad, Haldis Haukanes, Getnet Tadele, Marte E. S. Haaland, Richard Sambaiga, Joseph Mumba Zulu and Karen Marie Moland

    Citation: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 18:126

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  4. Content type: Research

    Reproductive health problems such as HIV, unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion among adolescents are closely linked to insufficient knowledge about sexuality and reproduction and lack of access to contracept...

    Authors: Joseph Mumba Zulu, Astrid Blystad, Marte E. S. Haaland, Charles Michelo, Haldis Haukanes and Karen Marie Moland

    Citation: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 18:116

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  5. Content type: Research

    In spite of increasing international commitment to young people’s sexual and reproductive health, unintended pregnancies remain a major problem for young women worldwide. This article explores the issue of uni...

    Authors: Mulumebet Zenebe and Haldis Haukanes

    Citation: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 18:23

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  6. Content type: Research

    The Zambian Termination of Pregnancy Act permits abortion on socio-economic grounds, but access to safe abortion services is limited and this constitutes a considerable problem for rights to sexual and reprodu...

    Authors: Marte E. S. Haaland, Haldis Haukanes, Joseph Mumba Zulu, Karen Marie Moland, Charles Michelo, Margarate Nzala Munakampe and Astrid Blystad

    Citation: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 18:20

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