Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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ANTEHUNEGN Birhanu, Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Woldia University

This paper examines the interface between abortion practice and community responses in Woldia Town. Despite the fact that an effort was made by the Ethiopian government to liberalize abortion laws and policies, such laws have not been enacted. This is because laws and policies do not come in a vacuum but rather emanate from the basic values and norms of society. Hence, this study employed agency structure theory so as to examine both factors of personal and structural levels in addressing the interface between the experience of women having an abortion and the community response in a given moral and sociocultural context. In this regard, the findings of this study revealed that to some extent the existing discourses and stringent normative beliefs prohibited safe abortion practices and women’s reproductive rights, decision making and access to services though Ethiopian liberalized abortion lawa. The in-depth interviews, key informant interviews and case study results mainly showed that there were always competing discourses or interests between the private arena (desires and rights to control fertility and pregnancy termination) and community responses or cultural meaning of abortion including labelling, stigma and societal reactions. The result of this study also uncovered that contextual factors such as stringent community values, healthcare providers’ conscious objections and confidentiality problems and traditionally based gender roles (male dominance) among others were the impediments of safe abortion practices in general and women’s reproductive choices in particular. Similarly, the community responses such as a belief in abortion as immoral and intolerable, societal stigma towards women as if they were murderers, violating cultural values and inciting others to do the same influenced women’s abortion decisions, created moral crises and psychological distress. Finally, this paper is interested in exploring women’s abortion experiences, negotiating strategies in abortion decision as individuals and not as passive agents, simply dominated by existing normative patterns (Giddens 1984). Loopholes in community reactions and socio-cultural pressures resulted from contextual factors in practicing induced abortion.