“Reforming African Abortion Laws and Practice: The Place of Transparency” by Charles G. Ngwena

 

Charles G. Ngwena, “Reforming African Abortion Laws and Practice: The Place of Transparency” Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp 166-186, notes 419-422.  A Spanish edition was published in August, 2016.  Ahora disponible en español.

Unsafe abortion that is linked to criminalization of abortion remains a major public health and human rights challenge in the African region despite the liberalization of laws over the past few decades. In this ninth chapter of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective, Charles Ngwena draws principally on decisions of United Nations treaty bodies and also references decisions of the European Court of Human Rights to illustrate the potential of the procedural turn for facilitating access to lawful abortion in Africa. He sets out a case for how rendering states accountable for lack of effective implementation of existing legal grounds can be an important juridical tool to secure access to safe abortion for African women. He finds that states no longer satisfy individuals’ human rights by simply broadening the grounds for lawful abortion, but must actively create identifiable means by which women can access, and providers deliver, lawful services. He explores whether the guidelines on safe abortion promulgated by ministries of health in certain African countries meet the procedural standards. The legitimacy of such guidelines would be more substantial if they had the support of ministries of justice and offices of attorneys general, and their assurances that there will be no prosecutions where abortions are procured safely with due regard to the rights and dignity of women.

The final sections of this chapter evaluate how international requirements of transparency apply to the African region, highlighting its transformative potential as well as its limits within a post-colonial environment where, long after attaining Independence, abortion is still criminalized and patterned on colonial laws in several states. Ultimately, transparency serves a pragmatic jurisprudential strategy for working within a largely constraining legal environment that has yet to concede radical reform of abortion law, or allow mid-level health care professionals to provide abortion services.

Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies was published in August 2014 by the University of Pennsylvania Press’s Studies in Human Rights Series.   Table of Contents and other information online.    A Spanish edition was published in August, 2016.  Ahora disponible en español.

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