Pan Africa Parliament and Ipas sign MOU
Friday, November 3, 2017

The Pan Africa Parliament (PAP) of the African Union reports that during its recent meeting in Midland, South Africa the PAP “gave impetus to the promotion of safe and legal abortions by dedicating several debates to the topic, and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with reproductive activist group, the Ipas Africa Alliance.”


As an abortion activist group, Ipas performs abortion, promotes abortion, and trains health-care workers in abortion techniques. It has long been engaged with officials at the African Union and African Commission to promote access to abortion, as well as working with various national health ministries. The PAP press release details that it was through Ipas that PAP first committed to promotion of abortion in July 2015 “when members of its health, labour and social affairs committee jointly discussed maternal mortality and morbidity of unsafe abortions in Africa with the committee on gender, family, youth and people with disability, in partnership with Ipas.”


The African treaty with a ‘right to abortion’, the Maputo Protocol, is the vehicle being used to advance abortion. The treaty in Article 14(2)(c)  “requires State parties who have signed the Protocol to take all appropriate measures to protect the reproductive health rights of women, including by authorizing abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape or incest, where the life or health of the pregnant woman or the life of the foetus is at risk.” The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights---the body which oversees compliance with the treaty—was reported by PAP to have interpreted health in Article 14(2)(c) as meaning “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In other words, the Protocol takes the holistic understanding of health as grounds for an abortion.”


Such a definition was not part of the Maputo Protocol in 2003 when the treaty came into effect and is only a recent interpretation by the African Commission, with the help of Ipas, which countries have not recognized.


So far 37 African Union member states have ratified the treaty with reservations on abortion known to have been entered by Libya, Rwanda, Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya and Uganda. Ipas through PAP is now pushing parliamentarians to call on their governments to change laws to increase access to abortion under the broad expanded definition of health which results in abortion on demand.


During the parliamentarians’ meeting, Hon Zalikatou Diallo from Guinea-Conakry—a frequent attendee at IPPF sponsored parliamentarian meetings—presented the use of an abortion advocacy toolkit and urged lawmakers to pursue a “human rights- based approach” to change laws on abortion. The advocacy toolkit “outlines the challenges and gaps within existing legal frameworks and addresses the roles of PAP members in promoting safe and legal abortions domestically” and “gives practical guidance on how to engage stakeholders in the process of decriminalising abortion and provide advocacy strategies for reproductive health reform at national level.”


Not all parliamentarians were in agreement with the pro-abortion agenda. Ugandan MPs Hons. Anifa Kawooya and Jacquiline Amongin objected and defended Uganda’s pro-life position.


MP Amongin stated, “While Uganda is among the 37 countries that have ratified the Maputo Protocol, it signed with reservations, so our national laws will take precedence on abortion.” “We are a God-fearing country and it’s only God who gives life and terminates it.  Instead of us legalizing abortion, we should struggle to ensure that we adopt the Abuja Declaration and allocate 15% of our national budgets to health,” she said. MP Kawooya informed the PAP legislators of Uganda’s position on abortion, saying that whether safe or legal, in the African context, the practice is frowned upon. “I am a strong advocate for women’s rights but when it comes to abortion, I have very strong reservations. This is an area where we need deep thought. I want to disassociate myself and my country, from this advocacy tool,” she said.


Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia were positively identified at the meeting for their pro-abortion laws that allow abortion on request in the first three months of pregnancy.