Will America without Roe = Uganda?

So that's what a country without reproductive freedom looks like.

Published February 2, 2006 9:25PM (EST)

Wonder what it's like to live in a country where abortion is outlawed and birth control difficult to access? Well, you might not have to wonder long.

No really. Grim jokes aside, for a peek at the consequences of rolling back women's reproductive rights, check out this report on the rates of abortion in Uganda, which appeared in the December issue of International Family Planning Perspectives.

Abortions are illegal in Uganda, except in cases when pregnancy endangers the mother's life, and more than half of married -- let alone unmarried -- Ugandan women lack contraceptive care. But still, according to a press release by Leila Darabi of the Guttmacher Institute, approximately 297,000 abortions are performed each year (working out to 54 for every 1,000 women of child-bearing age). Unable to find trained medical assistance, women are forced to attempt unsafe, makeshift abortions -- leading to 85,000 cases of abortion-related illness and injury every year, and making illegal abortion the No. 1 cause of maternal death.

What's more, rather than trying to decrease the abortion rate by supporting family planning, throughout much of Uganda birth control is still not widely available. Darabi reports that "half of all pregnancies in Uganda are unintended ... While contraceptive use increased slightly between 1995 and 2000, the gap between the number of children a woman wants and the number she has rose slightly over the same time period. On average, Ugandan women have two more children than they plan."

The equation seems pretty clear. Without open and unrestricted access to comprehensive sex education and contraception, there will always be unwanted pregnancies. And with unwanted pregnancies, there will always be abortions, whether legal or illegal. Shouldn't we be encouraging women to improve their lives -- not risk them?

By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit thefastertimes.com/streetfood and Signs and Wonders.

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