Ethiopian lawmakers recently approved a number of legal reforms aimed at promoting women’s reproductive health and rights, including the removal of penalties for abortions in cases of rape, incest and extreme danger to a woman’s life or health.

The new legal code also establishes punishments for the trafficking of women and children, rape, sexual abuse by family members, female genital mutilation and abduction for the purpose of marriage, according to Ipas, a North Carolina-based organization that works to secure women’s right to safe abortions worldwide.

The reforms are the result of a decade-long effort by groups such as Ipas and Ethiopian organizations and officials to make abortions safer and to establish clearer protections of women’s reproductive rights.

The code clearly outlines the circumstances under which abortions are not subject to punishment, such as when a pregnant woman is too young to be physically or mentally prepared to raise a child.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Health reports that unsafe abortions are the fifth-leading cause of hospital admissions and second-leading cause of deaths among hospitalized women.


A congressional study released Thursday reports that some federally funded abstinence sex education courses are imparting misleading and blatantly false information to children in elementary and high schools.

The study, ordered by Congressman Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, examined 13 courses and found that 11 of them contained information that was completely untrue. Among the lessons: 50 percent of American teen-age gay men are HIV positive, touching someone’s genitals can lead to pregnancy and abortion can lead to sterility and suicide.

The report found that in addition to unsupported “facts”–such as one course’s claim that in heterosexual sex condoms fail to prevent HIV 30 percent of the time–the abstinence-only curricula reinforce gender stereotypes. One curriculum instructs: “Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.”

Under the Bush administration there has been a dramatic increase in federal support for abstinence-only programs. Unlike comprehensive sex education programs, these no-sex-until-marriage programs have not been shown to decrease rates of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. In fiscal year 2005 the federal government will spend $170 million on abstinence-only education, the report said.

— Robin Hindery.

Ipas–Revision of Ethiopian Law Promotes Women’s Reproductive Rights:

Official Report–
The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs

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