Burkina Faso

Read this historical overview of Burkina Faso's abortion legislation to get a better understanding of Tina's story.

Abortion in Burkina Faso

Abortion is illegal in Burkina Faso, with very few exceptions. The Penal Code of 1997 allows for abortions to be performed at any time in the pregnancy to preserve the life and health of the pregnant women and in cases of severe fetal impairment. If the pregnancy is the result of rape and/or incest and confirmed by the Public Prosecutor, it can be terminated within 10 weeks of gestation. However, it is practically impossible to obtain this legal and medical information, and have it confirmed by the Prosecutor within 10 weeks. Abortions on all other grounds are illegal, but widespread. Illegal abortions are punishable for both the woman and the abortionist. They face imprisonment up to five years, as well as a fine between 300,000 and 1,500,000 CFA (between about €450 and € 2,300). However, it is uncommon for both the abortionist and the pregnant woman to be tried for illegal abortions.

The need for modern contraceptives is not met – neither for married nor unmarried women. As a result, about one in three pregnancies are unintended, and about a third of them end in an abortion. This is credited to lack of sexual education and access to family planning facilities, especially in rural areas.

Clandestine abortions are a problem in countries with restrictive abortion legislation, including Burkina Faso. Of the estimated 105,000 abortions performed in 2012, the majority of them were illegal and performed in unsafe environments. Half of them ended with complications. Many Burkinabe women turn to having their abortions in secrecy, because they are faced with several obstacles, such as access to the proper facilities, when they want to have an abortion, legal or illegal. Additionally, abortion is veiled in social and medical stigma, which can lead to stigmatization by health care workers, and lack of proper treatment. Many turn to traditional practitioners, who are seen as more secretive, or self-induce abortion with soap or other unsafe objects. Accordingly, many women need proper post abortion care, which can have detrimental outcomes, such as in the case of Tina.

Historical overview

Burkina Faso gained independence from colonizer France in 1960, and the abortion law is part of the colonizer’s heritage. Abortion on request is illegal, but the amendments in 1997 allowed for abortion under certain circumstances; to save the pregnant woman’s life, severe fetal impairment, and to have an abortion before week 10 if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In 2005, Burkina Faso enacted reproductive health legislation with the same objective.

Situation 2022

In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in seven maternal deaths are abortion related. Rather than focusing on amending the law to allow for induced abortions, which they oppose, Burkinabe authorities have adopted a strictly medical public health strategy of post-abortion care (PAC), where the aim is to give women with botched abortions proper care to avoid permanent damage and death. NGOs with a focus on reproductive health, such as IPAS and Marie Stopes International, work within this framework, in order to stay on the good side of the authorities. Moreover, they see that there are attitudes in society that are not ready for abortion legalization, nor a public debate about it. The NGOs avoid using the word abortion in their services but focus on maternal health. They offer family planning services and work with the government towards better PAC, such as training health personnel and providing medication.


Written by: Tilla Solli for The Women's Museum of Norway

Sources

Boland, R., & Katzive, L. (2008). Developments in Laws on Induced Abortion: 1998–2007. International Family Planning Perspectives, 34(03), 110–120. https://doi.org/10.1363/3411008

Guttmacher Institute. (2014, February). Abortion in Burkina Faso. https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/factsheet/fb-abortion-in-burkina.pdf

Ouedraogo, R., Senderowicz, L., & Ngbichi, C. (2020). “I wasn’t ready”: abortion decision-making pathways in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. International Journal of Public Health, 65(4), 477–486. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-020-01359-6

PRB. (2020, September 14). Protecting Health and Building the Future of Burkina Faso: Making Safe Abortion Accessible. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.prb.org/resources/protecting-health-and-building-the-future-of-burkina-faso-making-safe-abortion-accessible/

Storeng, K. T., & Ouattara, F. (2014). The politics of unsafe abortion in Burkina Faso: The interface of local norms and global public health practice. Global Public Health, 9(8), 946–959. https://doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2014.937828

Wada, T. (2010). Abortion law in Ethiopia: a comparative perspective. Mizan Law Review, 2(1), 1–32. https://doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v2i1.55618