There are renewed calls for the approval of standards and guidelines for safe abortion to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality rates arising out of unsafe abortions in Uganda.
The standards and guidelines drafted two years ago, sought to prevent unsafe abortions, manage unintended and risky pregnancies, provide post abortion care and audit as well as monitoring and evaluation.
But the then Director General of Health Services Dr Jane Ruth Aceng halted the implementation and approval of the guidelines saying there was need to conduct further consultations on the matter. Dr Aceng is the current Minister of Health.
Dr Charles Kiggundu, a gynecologist at Mulago Hospital says that over 800 abortions are administered in Uganda each day and up to five women die in circumstances that could be prevented through guidelines for procuring safe abortions.
He added that the absence of guidelines has made it difficult for doctors and health activists to undertake measures which can save mothers from dying or sustaining complications while procuring abortions. Kiggundu says that the current law on abortion is outdated and doesn’t address changing health factors.
He added that the partners in Reproductive Health have also failed to secure funding to fight the deaths because there are no guidelines under which they will operate.
It’s reported that the guidelines were halted after a section of Ugandans criticized the Ministry of Health saying they were intended at promoting abortion which is both culturally and religiously not acceptable in Uganda.
Paul Ssemwogerere, the Bishop of Kasana-Luweero Diocese, said that abortion is both evil and murder. He said the argument that regulation will reduce deaths arising out of unsafe abortions is unjustifiable and instead suggested that efforts be directed towards preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Article 141 of the Penal Code Act says that any person who procures abortion commits an offense which attracts a 14-year jail sentence.
Justine Balya a lawyer with Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPH) says that although the law prohibits abortion, available reports indicate that the practice is rampant and that mothers need support to stop conducting the practice in unsafe environment.
Balya adds that they have filed a petition asking the Constitutional Court to declare that the failure by Parliament to enact a law on abortion was in violation of the constitution.
The petition is supported by Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Dr Rose Nakayi and Professor Ben K. Twinomujuni, all lecturers at Makerere University among others.
The Petitioners also want Court to interpret article 22(2) of the Constitution which provides that no person has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child except as may be authorized by the law. They also want Court to order the government of Uganda to take steps to make a law on abortion within two years of the judgment. Court is yet to hear the case.
Professor Ben K. Twinomujuni, a lecturer of law at Makerere University says that they are not seeking to legalize or decriminalize abortion but regulations to prevent deaths as well complications as result of unsafe practices.