Advocating for Safe Abortion Project

FIGO’s Advocating for Safe Abortion Project aims to raise the capacity of ten National Member Societies to be national leaders on sexual and reproductive health and rights and safe abortion.

Project contact:

Olga De Biaggio, Senior Project Manager

The Importance of Safe Abortion

FIGO regards reproductive choice, including access to safe abortion services, as a basic and non-negotiable tool for ensuring the human rights of every woman, not just in one region or country, but globally.

When safe abortion isn’t an option, women seeking to exercise their reproductive choice can be faced with untrained providers, often operating in unsanitary environments, or even resorting to drastic and unsafe attempts to self-induce an abortion.

Lack of access to safe abortion results in 45% of all abortions globally being unsafe. Unsafe abortion remains a catastrophic public health problem accounting for up to 13 percent of maternal mortality worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of survivors living with long-term complications, including infertility and chronic pain.

What we do

FIGO is working with ten National Member Societies to raise their capacity to lead advocacy on safe abortion to the extent permitted by law in their respective countries. National societies of obstetrics and gynaecology are in a unique position to be national sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates due to being respected for their technical expertise and close relationships with other partners including the Ministry of Health.

Project Objectives

The project’s aims include:

  1. Strengthening the management and organisation of ten National Member Societies and raising their capacity to be national leaders on sexual and reproductive health and rights and safe abortion
  2. Establishing coordinated and vibrant national networks of associations that are supportive of safe abortion for collective advocacy efforts
  3. Creating increased acceptance of safe abortion among health workers, policy makers and the general population
  4. Ensuring that the policy environment is conducive and providing guidance to health workers on providing services to the full extent of the law without fearing legal implications
  5. Ensuring a process for data generation and use for improved monitoring, planning for services, and ensuring advocacy efforts are evidence-based

FIGO will support the 10 societies to deliver their project as well as engage in international advocacy efforts. The expected overall long-term impact of the project will be to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion, due to women having increased access to safe abortion services.

Project details

The Advocating for Safe Abortion Project will run for three years from 2019-2022. Countries involved are: Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Panama, Peru, Uganda and Zambia.

The Advocating for Safe Abortion Project builds on a previous project – the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion Initiative, which ran from 2007.

Assessing capacity and entry points for advocacy

In order for FIGO to provide the right level and content of capacity building to the national societies, we had to first thoroughly understand the current situation, both in the country and in terms of capacity of the national society to lead advocacy efforts. Phase I involved a comprehensive needs assessment, below are the key findings:

  • The countries have diverse legal frameworks, ranging from restrictive to fully liberalised (abortion on demand)
  • There is a lack of accurate national data on abortion prevalence and its contribution to maternal mortality
  • Pro-safe abortion actors were strong but not always outspoken or unified, while in some countries opposing actors were very powerful.
  • The preferred terminology to address safe abortion differs in each country. In some, there is a preference for more sensitive terminology, such as Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) or ‘preventing unsafe abortion’
  • National societies of obstetrics and gynaecology are by definition a heterogeneous group of medical professionals and within all societies, there is a diverse range of opinions on abortion.
  • Societies have credibility as technical experts and on the subject of safe abortion. All societies have individuals who are extensively engaged as advisors on safe abortion, e.g. in the development of national guidelines.

The Project is based on a comprehensive needs assessment of the current situation in each country and the capacity of the national society.