New York Times Examines Maternal Mortality, Abortion In Africa

Focusing on Tanzania, the New York Times examines maternal mortality and abortion access in Africa. According to the New York Times, “[p]regnancy and childbirth are among the greatest dangers that face women in Africa, which has the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality — at least 100 times those in developed countries. Abortion accounts for a significant part of the death toll.”

Data from the WHO shows that the estimated 19 million “unsafe abortions” each year around the world kill 70,000 women annually and account for 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. More than two million women have serious abortion-related complications. Although reliable Tanzanian abortion statistics are “hard to come by,” the WHO reports that its Eastern African region has the “world’s second-highest rate of unsafe abortions,” the New York Times reports.

“In most countries the rates of abortion, whether legal or illegal – and abortion-related deaths – tend to decrease when the use of birth control increases,” according to the New York Times. The article includes information about failed abortions in Tanzania and describes the type of medical treatment that women there receive (Grady, New York Times, 6/2).

Other Maternal Mortality News

  • The Washington Post reports on recent events in Lima, Peru, to mark “Healthy Maternity Week.” The activities raised awareness of the 1,500 women, mostly in developing countries, who die each day from pregnancy-related complications. According to Laura Castleman, who serves on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on International Affairs, these deaths are “completely preventable,” but “we’re not valuing women’s lives enough.” Several countries are “making good progress according to Mary Ellen Stanton, senior maternal health advisor for USAID. She said some countries have seen maternal mortality reduced 20 to 50 percent over a 10-year period (Hom, Washington Post, 6/2).
  • examines the Pakistani government’s recent actions, which indicate that the government “refuses to recognize the death of Pakistani mothers” as a “basic human rights issue.” According to, “Pakistan was not one of the signatories to” a joint statement delivered to the UNHRC reaffirming their commitment to addressing maternal mortality as a human rights issue. Several groups have mobilized on the issue and have “urged the Pakistan government to sign the upcoming resolution on maternal mortality” at a June UNHRC session in Geneva (Abbas,, 6/2).