By Nabusayi L. Wamboka
For many young couples, sex is just fun, a game; until something
starts kicking to remind them that there is more to sex than
For Henry Kawanga, 19, the shock and panic that set in when
his girlfriend of two years told him she was pregnant, turned
him into a hostile lover, accusing her of cheating on him
and ‘wanting to ruin his whole future.’
“Deep down I was thinking, that could mean the end
of my education. My Dad can’t pay school fees for a
‘man’ with a kid. I was simply not ready to have
this child,” Kawanga said.
For months, he avoided his girlfriend and when she eventually
confronted him and decided she was going to have an abortion,
“I was so afraid of this whole situation and the last
thing I wanted was an abortion. I think it is a sin,”
When he told his girlfriend she could not have an abortion,
she almost committed suicide.
His father was supportive and committed himself to paying
the girl’s school fees after she gave birth to compensate
for his son’s sin.
For many men, a genuine fear of the responsibility that comes
with raising children forces them to disown their girlfriends
or push the girls to abort.
“Boys too, have issues. They don’t have the information
to help them be more responsible in their relationships. Even
where they would have loved to support the girl, there is
a lot of poverty that they can’t carry that burden.
Eventually they will support the girls to abort,” said
Hassan Hussein, an accounting consultant.
Hussein however says his religion – Islam – does
not permit abortion.
A 2005 report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute says unintended
pregnancy and unsafe abortion rank high among the serious
health problems facing Uganda. The report, titled ‘Reducing
Unintended Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion in Uganda’,
says unplanned births represent a growing proportion of all
births – almost one half in 2000, compared with one
third in 1995.
“With such high levels of unplanned child bearing,
it is likely that abortion is becoming increasingly common.
Evidence suggests that abortion to end unwanted pregnancies
is widespread, that it is usually performed clandestinely
in unsafe conditions and that unsafe abortion is a leading
cause of maternal death in Uganda,” it said.
Theologians offer different interpretations of Christian
teachings on the issue. Speaking at a workshop on abortion
organised by Ipas, an NGO that campaigns for the protection
of women’s health and advancing women’s reproductive
rights, Rev. Prof. David Kyeyune of the Uganda Catholic Secretariat,
said the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was a liberating
and transforming event in the mission of the Church.
“Before the Council, the Roman- Catholic Church was
putting emphasis on its pyramidical structures at the expense
of the life and dignity of believers. The church was notorious
with its commanding: don’t make abortion. Abortion is
sinful,” he said.
That commanding language has been changed into persuasive
and healing language to enable people appreciate human life,
human dignity and parenthood.
Rev. Aaron Mwesigye, Provincial Secretary of the Church of
Uganda, says that the Church performs pre and post abortion
“The Church of Uganda has been preaching against abortion,
however it needs to perform a proactive role…through
research and advocacy against unsafe abortion among its members
especially the youth,” he said.
Women in Africa face the highest risk of death from abortion
related complications. According to the World Health Organisation
(WHO), more than five million unsafe abortions take place
in Africa each year. Worldwide, millions of women risk their
lives and health to end an unwanted pregnancy. Everyday, 55,000
unsafe abortions take place – 95% of them in developing
countries. This leads to the deaths of more than 200 women
daily globally, and approximately 2-6 in Uganda.
According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey, Uganda’s
Maternal Mortality Rates stand at 500 deaths per 100,000 live
births and of these deaths, between 8% -23% are attributed
to abortion-related complications, including but not limited
to chronic pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal
blockage and secondary infertility.
Dr. Olive Sentumbwe Mugisa, a Family and Population Health
advisor at WHO, says about 6,000 women die annually in Uganda
due to pregnancy related causes; 8 percent of these (or 480)
die due to complications related to abortion.
Longterm problems caused by unsafe abortions include chronic
pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal blockage and
Treatment of abortion-related complications often requires
several days of hospitalisation and staff time, as well as
blood transfusion, antibiotics, pain control medications and
According to Dr. Ssentumbwe, many women seeking abortion
are married or live in stable unions and already have several
children. They seek abortions primarily to limit the size
of their family or to space the births.
Several reasons given for the high rate of abortions include
non-use of contraception which accounts for the majority of
unwanted pregnancies, contraceptive failure, sexual coercion
and rape, lack of control over contraception, abandonment
or unstable relationships, mental or physical health problems,
severe malformation of the foetus, financial constraints and
the need to continue with education or with a job.