Professional Mission and Personal Beliefs: Ethiopian Midwives' Roles in Expanding Access to Abortion Services in the Wake of Legal Reform

Sarah Jane Holcombe, University of California, Berkeley
Aster Berhe, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Amsale Cherie, Addis Ababa University

In 2005, Ethiopia enacted a rare reform, liberalizing its abortion law while overhauling its Criminal Code. The reform’s purpose was largely to reduce the country’s high levels of maternal mortality, due in part to unsafe abortion. This reform further broadened access through its pioneering regulations authorizing mid-level providers, including Midwives, to offer abortion services. Using data from a 2013 Midwives survey (n=188) and twelve in-depth interviews with third-year Midwifery students, this research examines the knowledge, attitudes and practices of Midwives on abortion and abortion provision, in order to understand the underpinnings of Midwives’ decisions whether or not to provide services. Preliminary findings indicate that a majority of Midwives (70%) surveyed were willing, or were possibly willing, to provide abortion services, and that willingness varies by age, religious affiliation, religiosity, and gender. Interview data suggest complex dynamics underlying this outcome, including strong professional norms that often conflict with personal religious beliefs.

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Presented in Session 108: Abortion