Abortion in Uganda

Abortion in Uganda: Laws, Access, and Healthcare Insights

In Uganda, more than 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, with roughly a third of these being terminated via abortion. A 2003 study estimates that roughly 54 abortions occur for every 1,000 women in Uganda.

Despite the high incidence of unplanned pregnancies, safe abortion care is legally restricted in Uganda. This makes it incredibly difficult for women to access safe abortions, causing many to turn to unsafe abortion methods (1). This article will discuss details surrounding abortions in Uganda.

Abortion in Uganda

Unfortunately, Uganda legally restricts abortions, making them only legal under specific conditions. For example, in line with the 2006 National Policy Guidelines, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape, fetal anomaly, maternal HIV, or incest (1). Outside of this, no individual is said to have the right to terminate a pregnancy unless authorized by law, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995), Article 22(2). Additionally, the Penal Code Act goes on to explain that anybody who provides the tools to execute an abortion, be it by drugs or other means, is committing a felony (2).

These laws are ambiguous, causing many women and providers to be hesitant about performing or undergoing an abortion (2). The legal consequences induce fear in both women and providers, preventing access to safe abortion care.

Abortion methods in Uganda

Out of every 19 women in Uganda, roughly one will have undergone an abortion. Despite abortion being relatively common, the legal restrictions surrounding pregnancy termination prevent individuals from receiving safe abortion care.

Because of the legal threat, health-care providers, even those who are experienced in abortion care, must practice secretly and at a high cost. Thus, women in rural areas or those who are poor have limited access to safe abortion procedures. Such individuals may try to self-terminate a pregnancy or seek care from untrained personnel who may use unsafe methods. This can be very dangerous, and the Ugandan Ministry of Health reports that abortion-related issues make up 26 percent of all maternal mortality in Uganda (1). Unfortunately, of the women who experience abortion complications, only 50 percent are able to receive abortion care to treat their conditions (3).

When safe abortion care is available in Uganda, it is done via the following methods: manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), abortion pills (Misoprostol only/Mifepristone and Misoprostol), or dilation and curettage (D&C) (4). Each of these methods is detailed below:

  • MVA. With MVA, a provider uses a special syringe to apply suction. Then, the vacuum, with a thin tube, is placed into the uterus. The machine applies suction to remove the pregnancy contents from the uterus (5).
  • Abortion pills. Mariprist and MA-Kare are abortion pill packs that provide one Mifepristone tablet and four Misoprostol tablets. Mifepristone terminates the pregnancy by blocking a hormone necessary for pregnancy; Misoprostol causes the body to empty the pregnancy contents from the womb.
  • D&C. With a D&C, your provider dilates (opens) the cervix. From there, they use a surgical instrument to remove the pregnancy tissue from the uterus (6).

Cost of abortion in Uganda

Because of the secrecy associated with abortions in Uganda, health-care providers that do offer pregnancy termination services are expensive. Based on 2003 data, the cost was expected to be around $25 to $88 USD when done by a doctor, $14 to $31 USD when done by a midwife or nurse, and $12 to $34 when done by a traditional healer. For self-induced abortions, the estimated cost is around $4 to $14.

It is important to note that there are additional costs associated with post-abortion care, particularly those occurring as a result from incomplete abortion. Other serious complications can occur, specifically when abortions are done unsafely, such as sepsis, lacerations, perforations, and shock. This represents an additional financial and health burden to the individual.
Post-abortion care also induces a significant burden on Uganda, with a yearly cost of approximately $14 million USD (1).

Clinics available

There are a few publicly known clinics in Uganda that can help with family planning, reproductive health, and abortion care services. One such example is Marie Stopes UG. Marie Stopes UG offers family planning services, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, maternity services, and post-abortion care.

If you are seeking abortion services or care in Uganda, reach out to safe2choose to get connected.

Key takeaways

The stringent laws surrounding abortion in Uganda, coupled with the immense need for abortion care amongst Ugandan women, has perpetuated the incidence of high-risk abortions. Thus, access to safe abortion care must become available to all women in order to reduce the risk of complications and death from unsafe abortions.

If you are located in Uganda and are seeking abortion care, reach out to our counselors at safe2choose to get connected with the resources you need.

  1. “Abortion in Uganda.” Guttmacher Institute, 2013, www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/pubs/FB-Abortion-in-Uganda.pdf. Accessed November 2023.
  2. “Uganda’s Abortion Provisions.” Center for Reproductive Rights, reproductiverights.org/maps/provision/ugandas-abortion-provisions/. Accessed November 2023.
  3. Mulumba, M., et al. “Access to safe abortion in Uganda: Leveraging opportunities through the harm reduction model.” National Library of Medicine, 2017, hpubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28455836/. Accessed November 2023.
  4. Kagaha, A. & Manderson, L. “Medical technologies and abortion care in Eastern Uganda.” ScienceDirect, 2020,
    www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953620300320. Accessed November 2023.
  5. “Vacuum Aspiration for Miscarriage: Care Instructions.” MyHealth Alberta,  myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=abs1230#:~:text=With%20manual%20vacuum%2C%20the%20doctor,suction%20to%20remove%20the%20tissue. Accessed November 2023.
  6. “Dilation and curettage (D&C) .” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dilation-and-curettage/about/pac-20384910. Accessed November 2023.