As I grew up, I saw many young girls drop out of school because they became pregnantChantal UmuhozaYouth advocate in Rwanda
Five million women are hospitalised each year due to abortion-related complications. Cases like this can lead to infections, infertility and death. The improved access to contraception and sex education that Rutgers campaigns for will reduce the need for abortion services, but safe, legal abortion will always be necessary. By increasing access to it we can directly improve women’s health and free up some of the health care resources currently dealing with avoidable abortion complications. 98% of the world’s unsafe abortions happen in developing countries, but not only because health services there are often overstretched.
Death or medical complications are 30 times more likely where abortion is prohibited than in countries where abortion is legalised. And women and girls in countries where society gives them little or no access to sex education or contraception are often criminalised by sweeping laws against abortion. Rutgers helps groups in countries like these to work towards laws that respect the rights of women and enable access to safe abortion.
Rutgers supported Rwandan group YAM – Youth Advocate Members – in investigating the impact of the country’s punitive abortion law. Their advocacy helped to broaden Rwanda’s legal grounds for abortion to include rape, incest and forced marriage, and to reduce the maximum sentences for women still outside the law from fifteen to three years.
A voice for women
Rwandan youth leader Chantal Umuhoza describes how she became involved in this advocacy: “As I grew up, I saw many young girls drop out of school because they became pregnant. Some even were disowned by their families and ended up living miserable lives as single mothers. Others were married off to spare their parents the shame of having their children give birth out of wedlock. When I visited prisons and interviewed up to 50 girls mostly aged 25 and below who were serving long prison sentences for abortion, I decided I would be a voice for these young women”.