Author: Satang Nabaneh
Project Officer, Women Rights Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
In the Gambian context, the right of women to an informed choice and access to family planning and appropriate health-care service remains contentious due to the socio-cultural and religions dimensions. Being a society where deep-seated traditions and the Islamic religion play a major part in the life of a person and society, issues of sexuality and procreation are generally interpreted accordingly.
The Gambia has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Africa, which criminalises abortion based on colonially inherited penal code (Criminal Code, Act no. 25 of 1933). The Criminal Code follows the abortion law as provided in the English Offences against the Person Act of 1861 and subsequent interpretation by the Courts such as in the 1938 case of R v Bourne (3 ALL ER 615,  1 KB 687).
The latest global and regional estimates of the incidence of unsafe abortion and associated mortality bring no comfort to the African region. What is disconcerting about the estimates is not only that unsafe abortion continues to account for 13 per cent of maternal mortality, but also that, from a regional perspective, Africa’s share of unsafe abortion-related maternal mortality remains quite disproportionate. Africa stands out as the region least positioned to meet the Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015.