In Uganda, abortion is permitted only when the life of a woman is in danger. This restriction compels the perpetuation of the practice in secrecy and often under unsafe conditions. In 2003, 294,000 induced abortions were estimated to occur each year in Uganda. Since then, no other research on abortion incidence has been conducted in the country.
Data from 418 health facilities were used to estimate the number and rate of induced abortion in 2013. An indirect estimation methodology was used to calculate the annual incidence of induced abortions ─ nationally and by major regions. The use of a comparable methodology in an earlier study permits assessment of trends between 2003 and 2013.
In 2013, an estimated 128,682 women were treated for abortion complications and an estimated 314,304 induced abortions occurred, both slightly up from 110,000 and 294,000 in 2003, respectively. The national abortion rate was 39 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–49, down from 51 in 2003. Regional variation in abortion rates is very large, from as high as an estimated 77 per 1,000 women 15–49 in Kampala region, to as low as 18 per 1,000 women in Western region. The overall pregnancy rate also declined from 326 to 288; however the proportion of pregnancies that were unintended increased slightly, from 49% to 52%.
Unsafe abortion remains a major problem confronting Ugandan women. Although the overall pregnancy rate and the abortion rate declined in the past decade, the majority of pregnancies to Ugandan women are still unintended. These findings reflect the increase in the use of modern contraception but also suggest that a large proportion of women are still having difficulty practicing contraception effectively. Improved access to contraceptive services and abortion-related care are still needed.