Abortion is now legal in Benin. Until now, abortion had been banned in the West African country except in exceptional circumstances, with nearly 200 women dying each year from complications of clandestine abortion. This landmark new law marks a major step forward for women’s rights in a continent where access to abortion is still rare.
Benin has officially legalized the right to abortion. A new law, promulgated on December 20, 2021, now allows voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) for up to 12 weeks under certain conditions. Abortion must be done at the request of the pregnant woman, “when the pregnancy is likely to worsen or cause a situation of material, educational, professional or moral distress”reports France info.
200 women die every year in Benin as a result of complicated abortion
Until now, abortion was banned in Benin, except if the pregnancy was the result of rape or an incestuous relationship, or if the woman’s life was threatened. The Beninese government estimates that 200 women die in this way every year from complications of clandestine abortion. The new law should make it possible ” relieve the pain of many women who, faced with the suffering of an unwanted pregnancy, are forced to put their lives on the line“, said Beninese Health Minister Benjamin Hounkpatin, quoted by: France info.
It was not easy to pass this historic new law. The text has been heavily criticized, especially by the church which is very influential in the country. In a press release, the Bishops’ Conference of Benin confirmed that: “legalization of abortion is the culture of death”reports France info.“This is a law to save and preserve human lives, in this case women’s lives against the atrocities of clandestine abortions, early school leaving and rising poverty,” commented the Beninese Minister of Health for his part.
In Africa, only a dozen countries have legalized abortion
Benin is now part of the select club of African countries that have decriminalized abortion. It ties in with Tunisia, a pioneer country that enshrined the right to abortion in 1973, as well as South Africa, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Botswana, Liberia, Mozambique and Zambia. Abortion, on the other hand, is completely banned in Egypt, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Congo and Madagascar.
In Africa, unsafe abortions are still responsible for 13% of maternal deaths.