Some of the greatest sexual and reproductive health needs on the African continent are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where women and girls struggle to access contraception and face high rates of unintended pregnancy and sexual violence. Many resort to clandestine, unsafe abortions and risk death and injury as a result. Abortion had long been legally restricted in the DRC, but the conditions under which women can legally access abortion were greatly expanded in 2018 to include in cases of sexual assault, rape or incest, and when a continued pregnancy would endanger the mental and physical health of the woman or the life of the woman or the fetus.
Ipas DRC works with local partners to educate all relevant stakeholders—including women and communities—on women’s newly expanded right to access safe abortion. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and key partners, we helped draft new standards and guidelines for comprehensive abortion care that align with the Maputo Protocol and are now working to see that they are fully implemented. We also are training health-care providers to offer abortion and contraceptive care, and linking with community-based organizations and community health workers to ensure that women and girls know where they can access services.
A bold new effort to coordinate and catalyze the safe abortion movement across Francophone Africa is under way.