Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ethiopians Seeking Birth Control: Caught Between Church And State

(Dec 30, 2014, (Addis Ababa))--Her head draped with thin white fabric in the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, Konjit walked to the stately entrance to the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. But the soft-spoken 26-year-old did not go inside to pray because of her "sin." Days before, she had had an abortion; she had become pregnant after her birth control failed.

Like many women in Ethiopia, Konjit felt caught between two powerful forces when making decisions about reproductive health: the church and the state [note: we are using only her first name to protect her privacy].

The Ethiopian Orthodox church, established in the 4th century, officially prohibits any form of contraception that interferes with a woman's hormones, including pills, implants, intrauterine devices and shots. So the implant she got that week is definitely not sanctioned.

Abba Gebere Mariyam Welde Samuel, a 35-year-old priest at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, explained, "The Bible doesn't allow the use of pills." The only form of birth control the priests recommend is the natural method — abstaining from sex on the 250 annual Orthodox feast days and when women are fertile. And the church has a mighty reach: 43 percent of the 91.7 million Ethiopians are adherents. Read more from NPR »

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