Shall we stay away from politics this Friday…
Following the reversal of the Roe vs Wade ruling by the supreme court in the United States, a country seen as the ‘woke’ capital of the world has been divided on the issue of support for abortion.
There are questions regarding what a post Roe vs Wade America will look like, which is now a place where abortion is dependent on where you reside — this simply means that states now control access to abortion. They can either choose to ban abortion, restrict it, or protect a person’s right to choose.
Some Nigerians have also expressed shock and displeasure toward the June 2022 development and what the impact will be on the global movement for women’s rights. In the same month of June, the media reported that Lagos, Nigeria’s economical hub, was developing a guideline on safe, lawful abortion.
Legality of Abortion In Nigeria
In Nigeria, abortion is only legal when performed to save a woman’s life. Asides from that, abortion is illegal and carries a heavy jail sentence of up to 14 years. Still, abortions are common.
According to reports, Lagos is proposing a 40-page policy document titled ‘Lagos state guidelines on safe termination of pregnancy,’ which sets out guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy within the ambit of the criminal law of the state.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Olusegun Ogboye, noted that the absence of clear guidelines had stalled the effective implementation of the permissible therapeutic termination of pregnancy at appropriate levels of care resulting in preventable deaths.
If you are Pro-Choice or someone with a semblance of common sense and empathy, you would be glad that Lagos is finally trying to create a guideline for safe (restricted) abortion procurement.
However, on the 3rd of July 2022, a letter signed by Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, Director of Social Communications, Lagos Catholic Archdiocese, described the move as unacceptable and unjustifiable, with claims that this was a move to legalise abortion through the backdoor (whatever that means). The Catholic church, Lagos archdiocese, vowed to resist the move.
Reasons for Abortion
According to a journal published online on the 27 of May 2020 on unsafe abortion practices in Nigeria, reasons women give for having an abortion include a desire not to disrupt their education or that their partners refused paternity.
If we stopped acting like our white weren’t a little stained too, we wouldn’t be quick to shut the hospital doors from women that need abortions. We know young ladies whose lives have gone downhill after their pregnancies. We’ve heard stories of married women whose bodies needed abortions but couldn’t because their lives weren’t at immediate risk.
These ladies and women turn to quack doctors, with many dying on the table. While Lagos is trying to create guidelines for abortion, organisations and institutions whose leaderships are largely dominated by men are kicking against it.
Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and unsafe abortion is a major contributor to it. Various studies have quoted unsafe abortions to be responsible for up to 30% of overall maternal mortality. Women die on quack tables or from complications of illegal procedures because they cannot access safe abortion clinics. Legalising abortion will drastically reduce maternal mortality.
Women won’t have to die just because they are not ready to have a child. Women won’t have to bear pregnancies that are killing them. It is confusing why religious bodies always kick against rules that aren’t forcing their members to do anything. Members need to get pregnant first, before needing abortion services.
If organisations like the Catholic body are interested in the wellbeing of its members, the focus should be on ensuring that they are not involved in any form of coitus that will lead to unwanted/unplanned pregnancy. But no, they are bothered about imposing religious laws on circular states.
Laws that affect not only Christians but also non-Christians and non-religious individuals. I am confused by how and why our law and policymakers are held down by the shackles of religious mental slavery, so much so that they cannot function independently of what their Pastors or Imams may think.
Preventing women and girls from accessing abortion does not stop them from needing one. Access to safe abortion services is a human right as human rights law clearly states that decisions about your body are yours. With the sustained criminalisation of abortion, the state and everyone involved are playing their part in the continued sentencing of numerous women to death.
For a country with very high religious hypocritical standards, you will expect that measures will be taken toward better sex education for teens and young adults to reduce the need for abortion services, but the reverse is the case.
The World Health Organisation has noted that one of the first steps toward avoiding maternal deaths and injuries is for states to ensure that people have access to sex education, are able to use effective contraceptives, have access to safe and legal abortions, and are given timely care should there be complications.
The journal referenced a study that disclosed that 80% of interviewed politicians and policymakers admitted that unsafe abortion was a major cause of maternal mortality, however, only 20% were willing to support any amendment to the existing laws (no be juju be that?).
Until we honestly care for the wellbeing of our fellow citizens, void of hypocrisy and religious grandiosity, the possibility of having documents as simple as guidelines for restricted abortion services will not see the light of day (because, yes, Lagos bowed to pressure and had to suspend its abortion guidelines) and people (women like me) will continue to die.