Online Program

Assessing external influence in socially contentious policy reform: Ethiopian reproductive health leaders' understandings of foreign involvement in Ethiopia's 2005 reform of its penal code with respect to abortion

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 3:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Sarah Jane Holcombe, MPPM, MPH, PhD (C), School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco, CA
Maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion remains a persistent problem in lower-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Abortion law reform, although rare, has the potential to reduce maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion, as well as to rouse deep public conflict, rooted in individuals' firmly held core values. International actors increasingly seek to influence national policy-making on abortion, on both sides of the issue, particularly in low-income countries. What shapes do these influences take, and how effective are they perceived to be? In 2005, Ethiopia's Parliament substantially expanded legal access to abortion through an overhaul of its Penal Code providing an opportunity to examine these issues. This qualitative research explores Ethiopian reform actors' attitudes and understandings of international forces' and actors' influence on reform, drawing on 49 in-depth interviews conducted in Addis Ababa with Ethiopian leaders in the reproductive health sector, as well as on newspaper articles, organizational documents, opinion data, and secondary research. These research findings provide empirical data on national reproductive health opinion leaders' assessments of international influences on national policy. The findings are intended to inform those seeking to reduce maternal mortality by increasing women's access to safe and legal abortion.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain health-related risks of illegal unsafe abortion Identify key stakeholders typically involved in abortion-related policy reform Differentiate stakeholder interests and perspectives Describe examples of (attempted) foreign influence in policy development and national-stakeholder assessments of them

Keyword(s): Abortion, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked and researched in Ethiopia, and have carried out 49 in-depth interviews with opinion leaders in the field of reproductive health in Ethiopia.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.