‘Abortion’ is the act of intentionally ending a pregnancy. Women have different reasons to have an abortion. The reasons and the safety of abortion depends on the woman’s social environment. It is difficult to measure the exact number of abortions in Africa because not all of them take place in hospitals.


According to the Guttmacher Insitute, there were about 8.2 million abortions per year between 2010 and 2014 in Africa. This is an average of 34 per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15-44 years). This number has roughly stayed the same since 1990. More unmarried women (36 in 1,000) than married women (26 in 1,000) have abortions. 15% of all pregnancies in Africa each year end in abortion.


WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends methods for safe abortions. A trained person should perform the abortion and ensure the woman’s health is not harmed.

Between 2010 and 2014, one in four abortions in Africa was safe. Through unsafe abortions, women might lose too much blood or get infected. This has consequences for the woman’s health and can be expensive for the community.Out of all continents, Africa has the highest number of deaths caused by abortion. In 2014, abortions caused 16,000 deaths.


Contraception is a way to avoid becoming pregnant when having sex. There are different types of contraception, used by men or women. Condoms and birth control pills are common. In 2017 in Africa, about 58 million women wanted to use contraception but did not have access to affordable birth control. Between 2010 and 2014, 89 out of 1,000 women in Africa aged 15-44 became pregnant without trying to. Having an unplanned pregnancy increases the chance of abortion. Out of 21.6 million unintended pregnancies each year in Africa, almost four in ten end in abortion.


Most African countries have restrictive abortion laws. In 10 out of 54 countries, all abortions are illegal. In others, abortions are allowed only to save the woman’s life or health. 93% of African women live under these laws. In 4 out of 54 countries in Africa, abortion laws are liberal. This includes Zambia, Cape Verde, South Africa, and Tunisia. Either all abortions are allowed, or to save the woman’s health or when she cannot afford to have a child. South Africa liberalized its abortion laws in the 1980s. The number of abortions has not fallen, but in the first ten years, there was a 90% decrease in the number of deaths caused by abortion.


The rate of abortion in Africa has stayed constant in the last 30 years. Most abortions are under unsafe conditions, which harms the women’s health. Having an unplanned pregnancy is a common reason to have an abortion. Many women do not have access to affordable birth control. In some African countries, it is much easier to have a legal abortion than in others.