GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION FOR ACCESS TO SAFE AND LEGAL ABORTION
“Abortion” is one word many Nigerians have been made to believe is a terrible one. Not many think it is a right thing to do under any condition. But such stance may have been informed by lack of appropriate information, inadequate knowledge or lack of value for the life of women.
Nigeria has retained a British Abortion Law of 1861, one of her colonial laws for more than a century. Both the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria and Criminal Code of Southern Nigeria drawn the colonial abortion law made access to safe abortion very difficult. Ironically, while the law remains in place and rarely utilized, many Nigerian women lose their lives to unsafe abortion. Many of the people affected are victims of rape and incest.
Abortion is safe when it is performed by a competent skilled medical professional at a health facility well equipped for such procedure. There are copious evidences which show that mortality from safe induced abortion is extremely rare. On the other hand, unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal death in Nigeria. Today in Nigeria, approximately 10,000 girls and women die from complications of unsafe abortion every year. Many who survive are left to live with emotional trauma, chronic pelvic pain and infertility.
Incidents of rape appear to be rising in Nigeria. At least 3,800 cases of rape have been reported in the past three years and still counting. The prevalence of rape cut across religion, tribe or geographical location. In a country like Nigeria with restrictive abortion laws, unwanted pregnancies that arise from rape or incest lead to unsafe abortion and its complications including loss of lives. In the real sense, not many women would want a situation that will lead to induced abortion, but the reality is that these situations arise daily in Nigeria.
As young professionals who are convinced by evidences that universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and quality services would enable individual Nigerian women to live healthier lives and contribute to national development, we strongly demand the following;
- That the Senate pass the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill without further delay.
- That the National Assembly make laws to allow women in Nigeria make informed choices including Safe and Legal Abortion in cases of unwanted pregnancies arising from Rape, Incest or where the pregnancy continues to threaten the health of the woman.
- That Government of Nigeria institute comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and improve access to contraceptives for Nigerian women; these would help to prevent unwanted pregnancies arising from consensual sexual relationships.
Ghana made the recommended legislation on safe and legal abortion and after a couple of years, evidence shows reduction in unsafe abortion and abortion-related mortality. There was no significant increase in the overall number of abortion procedures in the country either.
For every case of unwanted pregnancy, men are involved. Should we continue to allow the woman alone suffer the consequences? This issue is not about religion. It is about humanity. It is about Choice for Life. Let Nigeria grant victims of rape or incest the right to make choices that will enhance the quality of their lives. Such choices should include carrying the unwanted pregnancy to term or safe abortion. Every woman counts and should be allowed to make choices for life!
Dr Laz Ude Eze, MPH, CPH
For #Choice4Life Advocates
#Choice4Life Advocates are 32 young Nigerians from diverse ethno-religious and social background across Nigeria, who uses social media platforms to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in Nigeria.