Illegal Abortions a Major Killer of Women in Ethopia

According to the World Health Organization, complications arising from illegal abortions are now the second leading cause of death for young women in Ethiopia. Only tuberculosis kills more young women in that poverty-stricken nation.

Abortion is illegal in Ethiopia except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, but illegal abortions are easy to obtain and widespread. According to WHO, the death rate from illegal abortions in Ethiopia is a staggering 1,209 per 100,000 abortions. In the United States, by contrast, the death rate from legal abortions is about 1 per 100,000.

A number of factors help to make the death rate so high, including a lack of access to contraception, a very low literacy rate among women (only about 14 percent of women are literate), and Ethiopia’s poverty which leads to only about US $1.50 per person being spent on health care resources annually.


High Death Rate from Illegal Abortions. UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, October 28, 2002.

Teens Pay The Deadly Price Of Religious Taboo. Tewedaj Kebede, Panos, July 2001.

Many Ethiopian Teens Dying from Illegal Abortions. Women’s E-News, November 4, 2002.

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