There are more than 1.8 million unsafe abortions in West Africa each year. An assessment of abortion care needs and opportunities in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa conducted in 2015 found there is “a vast unmet need” for comprehensive abortion care services in the region. Even though most countries have legal provisions for abortion—such as to protect the life and health of the woman and in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormalities—in many countries these laws have not been translated into actual services for women. There also are strong cultural, religious and political opponents to comprehensive abortion care, in addition to other barriers, such as stigma and lack of awareness of the legality of abortion.
In collaboration with national, international and community-based partners, Ipas’s Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa regional program is working with eight Francophone nations—Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo—to overcome political and cultural barriers and significantly expand programs providing safe abortion. Ipas also works with diverse partners to train and educate legal professionals, youth activists and leaders in sexual and reproductive health and rights to build a network of committed champions for safe, legal abortion.
‘Benin now recognizes what the U.S. denies’
A report in the New York Times hails Benin’s 2021 abortion law as “one of the most liberal laws on abortion” in Africa. Working with a diverse group of partners, Ipas Francophone Africa helped lay the groundwork for the law change and is now working with those partners and the Ministry of Health to implement it. Ipas Francophone Africa Director Bilguissou Balde notes in the article that, with the overturn of Roe v. Wade in the United States, “Benin now recognizes what the U.S. denies.”
A bold step forward: Benin’s new abortion law
In a historic move, Benin has legalized abortion in most circumstances and now has one of the most liberal abortion laws in Africa. This Q&A with Dr. Bilguissou Balde, director of Ipas Francophone Africa, looks at the law’s impact on abortion access and the steps Ipas is taking to ensure that the promise of the law is fulfilled.