Grounds on which abortion is permitted
To save the life of the woman Yes
To preserve physical health Yes
To preserve mental health Yes
Rape or incest Yes
Foetal impairment Yes
Economic or social reasons No
Available on request No
Two physicians must attest that the continuance of the pregnancy endangers the health of the woman or that a strong possibility exists that the unborn child will be afflicted with a condition of exceptional seriousness recognized as incurable at the time of diagnosis. Cases of rape or incest must be established by the State prosecutor, and the abortion must be performed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CONTEXT
Government view of fertility level: Too high
Government intervention concerning fertility level: To lower
Government policy on contraceptive use: Direct support provided
Percentage of currently married women using
modern contraception (aged 15-49; 1993): 8
Total fertility rate (1995-2000): 6.6
Age-specific fertility rate (per 1,000 women aged 15-19; 1995-2000): 157
Government has expressed particular concern about:
Morbidity and mortality resulting from induced abortion Yes
Complications of childbearing and childbirth Yes
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births; 1990) :
National (1986) 930
Western Africa 1 020
Female life expectancy at birth (1985-1990): 45
Until the mid-1990s abortion legislation in Burkina Faso was based on the French Napoleonic Code of 1810. The most recent version of this legislation which was found in the Penal Code of 1984, contained no explicit exceptions to a general prohibition on the performance of abortions. However, under the general principles of criminal law relating to necessity, an abortion could be performed to save the life of the pregnant woman. Persons performing abortions and a pregnant woman consenting to the performance of an abortion were subject to imprisonment and fines, and medical personnel performing abortions or assisting in abortions were subject to suspension from the practice of their profession. This restrictive approach to abortion was in conformity with the Government’s restrictive approach to other procedures for preventing births. At the beginning of the 1980s, for example, French legislation dating from 31 July 1920 prohibiting contraception and propaganda on contraception was also still in effect.
In 1986, the Government of Burkina Faso repealed the 1920 law as well as similar provisions contained in the Public Health Code and adopted a policy of national family planning as a component of primary health care. The Government’s primary motivation was a concern with the rate of adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality and morbidity. The abortion provisions of the Penal Code remained unchanged, however, and as late as 1994, the Government approved a new Public Health Code that specifically prohibited the performance of abortions except to save the life of the pregnant woman.
In 1996 the Government reversed this policy on abortion. Again, its primary motivation was a concern for maternal health. Recent statistics had indicated, for example, that 5 per cent of all women admitted to maternity wards in hospitals in Burkina Faso had serious complications resulting from illegally induced abortions. Of these, 70 per cent were between the ages of 16 and 24 and 80 per cent were students or unemployed. In addition, 6 to 7 per cent of women treated in selected health services had died from haemorrhage, pelviperitonitis, septicemia, renal failure or hepatitis associated with illegal abortions, and 35 per cent of women seeking treatment for infertility reported a history of illegal abortion.
To give legal expression to this policy reversal, the Government significantly amended the abortion provisions of the new Penal Code promulgated at the end of 1996. Under the amended Code, abortion is still generally classified as a crime, and a person who carries out an abortion is subject to one to five years’ imprisonment and imposition of a fine of 300,000 to 1,500,000 CFA francs. However, important exceptions to this general prohibition have been created. Voluntary interruption of pregnancy is allowed at all times during pregnancy if two physicians attest that the continuance of the pregnancy endangers the health of the woman or that a strong possibility exists that the unborn child will be afflicted with a condition of exceptional seriousness recognized as incurable at the time of diagnosis. Moreover, in a case of rape or incest established by the State prosecutor, a woman is authorized to request a physician to perform an abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The exact scope of these new abortion provisions is not entirely clear from their wording. Although there is little doubt about the nature of the indications for abortion in cases of foetal defect and rape or incest, the contours of the health indication are more indistinct. The provisions do not reveal whether health includes mental as well as physical health nor how grave the threat to health must be before an abortion will be authorized. However, in response to a United Nations inquiry on population policies, the Government did indicate that both mental and physical health were grounds for legal abortion.
The Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources
, see list of references.