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The politics of abortion

Astrid Blystad reports on the completion of a 2-year project dealing with the politics of abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania in a featured collection in International Journal for Equity in Health.

girls in Africe
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The SAFEZT project (Safe abortion and fertility control among women in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania) has issued an article collection entitled ‘Reproductive health and the politics of abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania’ in the International Journal for Equity in Health. The collection was published in connection with the Safe Abortion Day 28 September and was launched at our panel at the European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in Liverpool 16-20 September 2019.

The project addresses the problem of unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortions are responsible for some 18% of all maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. They are also known to be closely associated with restrictive laws prohibiting access to safe abortion services as well as negative sanctions on contraceptive use among adolescents. You can read more about the project here.

Unique partnership opportunities

For the Bergen research team, SAFEZT has provided unique opportunities to work with excellent scholars in the partner countries exploring the dynamics between national laws and policies, and women’s actual access to safe abortion services. The comparative perspective of the research has yielded interesting results on the issue of access.  On the one hand, relatively liberal abortion laws such as the ones in Ethiopia and Zambia do not reflect easy access to services even if legal conditions are met.  On the other hand, a highly restrictive abortion law like the one in Tanzania, does not necessarily imply that relatively safe abortion procedures are unavailable.   The project’s findings clearly demonstrate that abortion laws in and of themselves have limited power to explain women’s actual access to abortion services.

The SAFEZT project funded by the NORGLOBAL programme at the Research Council of Norway (RCN) (2016-2018), has been headed by Astrid Blystad. It is situated within the project portfolio at the Global Health Anthropology research group, led by Karen Marie Moland. A number of Norwegian, Ethiopian, Zambian and Tanzanian senior researchers, post docs, PhD candidates, Master students and research track students (IGS/UIB) have been affiliated with the project.

The project concluded with a dissemination conference in Dar es Salaam in March 2019 where researchers and policy makers from the partner countries met and engaged in discussions about the project findings, as well as ways to move forward to prevent further abortion-related deaths and suffering in conservative social environments.