In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), access to safe abortion has historically been limited. Political chaos, a weak health sector, low use of contraception, and restrictive laws—that until recently made it illegal in nearly all cases—have contributed to high rates of abortion across the country. Many of these abortions are unsafe, which contributes to the DRC’s very high maternal mortality rate. However, in March 2018 the Congolese government published the text of the Maputo Protocol in the country’s national legal journal following concerted advocacy efforts by women’s rights groups, researchers, and nongovernmental organizations. Due to the nature of the country’s legal system, this action effectively expanded the categories under which abortion is now legal in DRC.

The challenge now is to spread awareness of this change to legal and medical authorities across a vast and politically decentralized nation the size of Western Europe. PRB has worked with partners in several parts of the country—Coalition de Lutte Contre les Grossesses Non Désirées in Kinshasa and Solidarité avec les Victimes et pour la Paix (SOVIP) and Groupe de Volontaires pour la Promotion de la Maternité Sans Risque (GVP-MASAR) in South Kivu Province—to support integration and implementation of the legal changes as the next step to improving access to health care for girls and women in the DRC.

The SAFE ENGAGE project partnered with Coalition de Lutte Contre les Grossesses Non Désirées to provide fact sheets they can use to inform judges, police chiefs, doctors, associations of medical professionals, and other decisionmakers of the 2018 changes governing legality of abortion in the DRC. These materials are intended to empower these key groups with the information needed to follow both the letter of the law and their own professional obligations.

 

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