Here's one set of shockers:
Over 90 % of African women of childbearing age live in countries with limited or no access to safe abortion procedures.
According to the most recent data, of the 5.6 million abortions carried out in the region every year, only 100,000 are performed under safe conditions.
Here is another way to think about that statistic: Every year, about 5.5 million women in Africa risk their lives when they decide to terminate a pregnancy. Drinking bleach or inserting sharp objects into their cervix are only two of the horrifying methods they use. These are not risks any woman should be forced to take.
Or how about this?
IPAS vice-president for Africa Eunice Brookman said nearly 40 women every minute risk their lives and health by undergoing unsafe abortions.
More than half of the 67,500 global deaths related to unsafe abortion, occur in Africa and more than half of the women who die from unsafe abortion in Africa are younger than 25 years.
These numbers are in the news now because a three-day conference in Ghana called Keeping Our Promise: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa just wrapped up.
Addressing maternal mortality rates is Goal 5 of the Millennium Development Goals.
Several African countries -- including Zambia, Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have loosened the rules around abortion, but women continue to die there because they could not access services or did not know they existed. (Here's that nifty interactive map showing the legal status of abortion around the world again.)
One example is South Africa, where just six years after the country liberalised its abortion law, the number of women dying from unsafe abortion dropped by 50%, and the number of women suffering serious complications fell as well.
It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that there are three basic pieces to the seemingly unsolvable puzzle of unsafe abortion in Africa.
1. Liberalize misogynistic laws. This is a job for the African people, but help should be offered and given if accepted.
And there's hope on that front. There are more women parliamentarians in Africa than other third-world areas.
The report’s [UN Human Development Index] new Gender Inequality Index—which tracks gender gaps in reproductive health, empowerment and work-force participation in 138 countries—shows that there are proportionally more women in sub-Saharan African parliaments (17 percent) than in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (12 percent), South Asia (10 percent) or the Arab states.
Well, there's bad news in that report too.
Yet, the region includes seven of the 10 most gender-unequal countries in the world: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Central Africa Republic, Mali, Niger and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
2. Provide more contraception and sex education. This we in the West can do.
3. Provide training, supplies, and facilities for abortion services where they are already legal. This we could do too.
Well, we could have if we didn't have misogynist theocrat Stevie Spiteful unaccountably still in office.