With over 2.7 million unsafe abortions, Nigeria needs to review 1861 colonial abortion law, Gynaecologist insists



By Oluwabukola Akanni
Ibadan, Aug. 27, 2019 (NAN) An Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Dr Steve Lemadoro, has appealed to the Federal Government to review the inherited colonial abortion law in the country to reduce the country’s high maternal mortality rate.

Lemadoro made the call on Thursday in Ibadan at the ongoing three-day training for journalists on “Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training is organised by IPAS, an international non-profit advocacy group focused on improving and expanding women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

Lemadoro disclosed that the law currently guiding abortion practice in Nigeria was the British Parliamentary Act of 1861 and was instituted by the British colonial masters.

“The existing restrictive abortion law in the country has tremendous impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health.

“All the nations of the world that have liberalised their abortion law have seen significant drop in morbidity and mortality related to abortion.

“Whereas, laws currently guiding abortion in Nigeria are pre-independent, even the United Kingdom that gave us these laws have taken steps over the years to make adjustments to those laws and make them up to date with the realities of the age that we are in right now.

“But we are still stuck in the past and that’s the reason why to a very large extent women can’t access comprehensive abortion care safely in Nigeria.

“They still access these things but sometimes they end up in the hands of quacks and sometimes dying in the process,” he said.

The gynaecologist said that the review of the existing colonial abortion law would also protect the rights of healthcare professionals to refuse abortion services based on personal convictions, while also mandating a referral to other professionals.

“The concept of liberalisation of the law doesn’t force anybody to offer abortion services or to access it.

“It just gives the rights with the benefit of choice to women, those who conscientiously object to offering those services can refer.

“These are the issues that we are talking about that government needs to tinker with, protect those who conscientiously object, while allowing those who desire those services to be able to access them in a safe and confidential setting,” he said.

According to him, the restrictive abortion law has failed miserably to contain the practice of abortion in the country, thereby adversely affecting the lives and health of women.

“What the law has done is that it has pushed many women to seek abortion procedures under unsafe conditions and quacks.

“This law contributes to the high rate of unsafe and illegal abortions in the country every year.

“Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity in the country.

“In 2017 about 1.8 million to 2.7 million unsafe abortions occurred in the country, and it mostly affected adolescent girls,” he said.

The gynecologist and obstetrican said that unsafe abortion procedures were several times higher than that of an abortion
performed professionally under safe condition.

Dr Abiola Akiyode -Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, called on journalists to take a firm stance in support of liberalising abortion law in the country in order to save women and adolescents lives.

According to her the media have the power to influence law and policy that will support safe abortion practices and ultimately reduce the country’s maternal mortality rate, which is one of the worst globally.

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