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By our reporter
An estimated 314,300 Ugandan women had abortions in 2013, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute and Makerere University.
This translates to a rate of 39 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–49. This also translates to 26,192 abortions every month or 872 abortions every day.
The study also found that 93,300 women were treated across the country for complications from unsafe procedures.
The annual hospitalization rate for complications from unsafe abortion is estimated to be 12 per 1,000 women aged 15–49, down from 15 per 1,000 in 2003.
Although Ugandan law explicitly allows abortion to save a woman’s life and the 2012 National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights permit abortion under additional circumstances including in cases of fetal anomaly, rape and incest, or if the woman is HIV positive in practice, legal abortion is both difficult to obtain and to provide.
The country’s abortion laws and policies are inconsistently interpreted by law enforcement officials and the judicial system, and many providers and women remain unaware of the circumstances under which abortion is legal.
As a result, most abortions in Uganda are clandestine procedures, which are often unsafe.
“Close to one third of Ugandan women who have abortions each year are treated in health facilities for complications resulting from unsafe procedures, and many other women who experience complications do not get the care they need,” says Elena Prada, consultant with the Guttmacher Institute and the study’s lead author.
“Notwithstanding the Ugandan government’s efforts to improve post abortion care services, stigma and fear of mistreatment are significant barriers for many women in need of these services.”
The study also produced new pregnancy estimates, finding that 52% of all pregnancies in Uganda in 2013 were unintended and about a quarter of these unintended pregnancies nationally ended in abortion.
The high proportion of unintended pregnancies reflects the finding that among women of reproductive age, 38% of married women and 45% of unmarried sexually active women had an unmet need for modern contraception in 2011.
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