Supporting Reproductive Rights – Abortion and Ugandan Adolescents

Oct 13th, 2021 | By | Category: Reproductive Rights/Women's Rights

By Joshua Mirondo, youth writer for Transition Earth.

[Photo: Unsplash/Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coaltion]

[Photo: Unsplash/Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coaltion]

Ugandan law prohibits abortion unless performed by a licensed medical doctor and a situation where a woman’s life is at risk. According to research by Alexander Kagaha & Lenore Manderson called Power, policy and abortion care in Uganda,unsafe abortion practices remain the major contributor to maternal death in the country. This hinders the achievement of universal health coverage and the quality of maternal health care. Little research has been made in relation to abortion, however; it is estimated that over 250,000 illegal abortions are performed in Uganda on an annual basis. It is also said to be one of the most common causes of maternal death in the nation.  Supporting the reproductive rights and health of youth is vital for healthy people and communities.

A Reproductive Health Service Provider’s Perspective

A conversation with Lindah Birungi, a service provider at Reproductive Health Uganda on World Safe Abortion Day.

“I have observed that abortions are mostly done by young people, you hear of very few adults.”  Young people, mostly teenagers, conceive while still in school. As they often have to contend with strict parents, abortion is the only way to save their reputations, they cannot afford not to look “spoilt” before the communities where they come from. For many of them, the pregnancy is accidental.

Young people do not have appropriate information on sexual and reproductive health; they usually get it from peers or untrusted sources. They therefore end up seeking abortion services from unskilled people. What happens is some abortions end up being fatal or resulting in serious health conditions, not to mention the effects on their mental health. In the long run, unsafe abortion affects their fertility. In many cases, the short-term effects are very dreadful.

How can society mitigate occurrences of abortion?

It must start with parents; they should be friends with their children and talk freely about Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH).  They must also prioritise and value the girl child. When a girl gets pregnant it shouldn’t be like she has committed a crime; they should instead support her. Talking about SRH can help to reduce abortion.

Unintended pregnancies should be avoided. Young people should abstain, but in case they can’t do without sex they should seek advice from health workers on how to use contraceptives. Young people can also be advised to engage in extra-curricular activities like sports, music, dance, and drama to keep them occupied so as not to engage in risky sexual behaviours.”

Emphasis should also be put on talking to boys about reproductive health issues in schools, churches, or other community gatherings. This will help to address their attitudes and create room for dialogue where young boys can freely talk about how girls can avoid unsafe abortions.

The Legal Framework

Abortion is illegal in Uganda but allowed in specific medical circumstances. Health of the mother is prioritized, when the woman has pre-existing conditions such as HIV or cervical cancer or special cases like rape, sexual violence, and incest (according to the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s 2006 National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights).

Role of medical workers

Our duty as a health worker is to sensitize communities on Sexual and Reproductive Health. For those who have gone through an unsafe abortion, we should have positive and supportive attitudes towards them. We should also sensitize and provide services to them, especially post abortion care.

It is important for health workers to understand what legalities of abortion means. This can put them in a position to sensitize communities and some of their clients on the policies and circumstances through which abortion can be carried.

A Win for Youth

When Sexual and Reproductive Health is prioritized in society it’s a win for young men and women. This means they have access to information that enables them to make informed choices and reduces their involvement in risky sexual behaviours that result into unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Prioritizing SRH also means young people will have safe spaces where they can freely express themselves without being judged. This therefore encourages them to consult providers about SRH issues and more easily obtain contraceptives, as well as help their peers with information regarding SRH.


Joshua Mirondo is a digital marketer, blogger, photographer and volunteer at Reproductive Health Uganda.  

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.