A decade of progress providing safe abortion services in Ethiopia

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ethiopian clinician with woman

A new Ipas study shows Ethiopia has greatly improved the availability of safe abortion care throughout the country—a significant accomplishment since the abortion law was liberalized in 2005 and a strong testament to the Ministry of Health’s commitment to advancing women’s reproductive health and rights.

The new study, A decade of progress providing safe abortion services in Ethiopia: results of national assessments in 2008 and 2014, is one of few studies that assess the impact of abortion policy reform and practice at two different time periods. The results show major improvements in the availability of both basic and more complex comprehensive abortion care. A rapid expansion of health centers in Ethiopia has increased the number of facilities able to provide safe abortion care and contraceptive services.

“This is a major step, as these services are providing essential lifesaving care for women who have complications from unsafe abortion, women seeking to safely terminate a pregnancy and women seeking to prevent a future unplanned pregnancy,” says Yohannes Dibaba, research and evaluation advisor for Ipas Ethiopia.

Additionally, the study shows the quality of abortion care has improved, with more women receiving postabortion family planning services and more women using medication abortion (abortion with pills). Most care is now provided by midwives, shifting care from hospitals to health centers closer to women’s homes.

“This research shows that Ethiopia has gone to great lengths to improve the maternal health of all women, even tackling the difficult issue of abortion,” says Tamara Fetters, Ipas senior research advisor. “While there are still some improvements that can be made to provide comprehensive abortion care across the nation, the structures are in place to eliminate unsafe abortion. Many of the barriers now exist in families, households and communities where stigma persists and women feel unsupported to make their own reproductive choices.”

Another study published in late 2016 also found Ethiopia’s safe abortion care services have greatly improved, and that the share of abortions that took place in health facilities nearly doubled between 2008 and 2014.