Friday, April 17, 2009

Film on Abortion in Ethiopia: Not Yet Rain

In 2004, Ethiopia enacted one of the most progressive abortion laws in Africa. A woman may now seek an abortion if her life or health is threatened. Abortion is also permitted in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment, or if the woman is a minor or physically or mentally injured or disabled. Before 2004, abortion abortion was permitted only to save a woman’s life and protect her health and in cases of rape.

However, many women still continue to perform self-induced abortions for multiple reasons: the stigma of sex outside of marriage, the cost of abortion, an inability to travel to safe clinics, and late term abortion restrictions. The new film Not Yet Rain examines the topic of abortion in Ethiopia through the voices of women who have faced the challenge of accessing safe abortion care within their communities.

Each year, 68,000 women around the world die from unsafe abortions. After hearing some of the techniques described in the twenty-three minute documentary Not Yet Rain, this comes as no surprise. One woman describes how a catheter and an umbrella were used to terminate her daughter's pregnancy, ultimately resulting in her death. Others resort to using sticks, plastic objects, and roots to attempt self-induced abortions. Whatever the reason behind being unable to access safe abortion services, the decision to turn to self-remedies is an extremely unsafe option, and it is vital that education is improved in the most remote communities, in order to ensure that women know their options and rights.

As a result of Ethiopia's revised law and 2006 guidelines for safe abortion services, abortion services are some of the safest in all of Africa. At a clinic in the documentary, the midwife/nurse explains that abortion services are now free, allowing women of all economic levels to receive proper care. Furthermore, the use of a manual vacuum aspirator (MVA) to perform the procedure is extremely safe and does not require the use of anesthesia, thus allowing clinics in the poorest and more remote areas of the community to provide such services. Regardless, the system is still full of problems. Due to a lack of education about reproductive health in Ethiopia, late term abortions are still one of the biggest factors leading to self inducement or use of traditional medicines.

Unintended pregnancy is a root cause of induced abortion and maternal mortality. An estimated 108 million married women in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception. Thus, meeting the need for contraception is a critical step toward reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancy.

In light of the mandates of intergovernmental agreements (ICPD, MDGs, Maputo) the prevention of unsafe abortion and death in all countries is an imperative goal for women’s health and rights.

To view the entire film Not Yet Rain online, visit

For useful resources on maternal mortality and MDG 5, check out the Women Deliver Resources at:

For more information on the legal status of abortion, read the Center for Reproductive Rights 2007 briefing, “Abortion Worldwide: Twelve Years of Reform”

Related articles from The Lancet on global abortion rates and trends are available online at:

1 comment:

Lizrick said...

This is really interesting- I'm going to go watch the movie now!