Organized 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.
Read the associated blog: "What difference does a law make?"