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Reproductive Health and the Question of Abortion in Botswana: A Review

Stephanie S Smith


The complications of unsafe, illegal abortions are a significant cause of maternal mortality in Botswana. The stigma attached to abortion leads some women to seek clandestine procedures, or alternatively, to carry the fetus to term and abandon the infant at birth. I conducted research into perceptions of abortion in urban Botswana in order to understand the social and cultural obstacles to women’s reproductive autonomy, focusing particularly on attitudes to terminating a pregnancy. I carried out 21 interviews with female and male urban adult Batswana. This article constitutes a review of the abortion issue in Botswana based on my research. Restrictive laws must eventually be abolished to allow women access to safe, timely abortions. My findings however, suggest that socio-cultural factors, not punitive laws, present the greatest barriers to women seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. These factors must be addressed so that effective local solutions to unsafe abortion can be generated.

Keywords: Abortion, Botswana, maternal mortality, Africa, women.

(Afr J Reprod Health 2013; 17[4]: 26-34)

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eISSN: 1118-4841