Opinion: Isn’t it about time we legalized abortion in Nigeria?

by Obinna Nnewuihe

I had barely found time to catch what was less than a 2-hour nap when I was woken up in a haste… Doctor! Doctor! There’s an emergency!!! I arrived to find a young lady bleeding severely and struggling to hold on to what was her life slowly slipping away. She was crying, desperate and above all, terribly sick! She had gotten pregnant and had attempted to terminate the pregnancy herself. She heard from her friend that there was a ‘powerful’ drug that will wash the belle away ‘sharp sharp’. She didn’t even need to get to see the doctor sef, the drug can be gotten from one of the shops around and swallowed. No need for injection- easy and simple; or so it seemed. She almost paid the ultimate prize!

Nigeria’s policy direction on termination of pregnancy strongly discourages procuring voluntary abortions. The law is rather clear on this one: it is unlawful to carry out a voluntary termination of pregnancy unless certain criteria are met. Let me explain, you are not allowed to just walk into a hospital to request an abortion. A termination of pregnancy can only be carried out if it is determined by a doctor that a woman’s life is at risk. The penal and criminal codes spell it out. There is a 14-year jail term for administering an abortion, 7-year jail term for a woman who carries out the abortion and a 3-year jail term for selling any materials that could be used for terminating pregnancies. The law as amended for Lagos state makes one exception- the threat to the mother’s life is no longer the only requirement for legally procuring an abortion. In Lagos state, a pregnancy can be terminated if a woman has a significant medical condition caused by or worsened by the pregnancy.

Imo state had introduced legislation 4 years ago that permits a woman to terminate a pregnancy in cases of rape and incest but this was greeted with so much public outcry that it was totally repealed almost immediately. Arguments against the law included concerns about it encouraging promiscuity and committing wanton murder against an innocent child. Nigeria currently has one the highest rates for poorly done abortions and women who lose their lives as a result of carrying out an illegal abortion. One thing is certain- the current status quo is extremely troubling and must not be left to fester on. How we would go about it is an aspect that is still not very clear to most stakeholders.

Okay, so now that Valentine’s day and all the waka waka that comes with it has come and gone, some of us will be at the receiving end of all the escapades our fellow compatriots have been up to. Ah yes o, in a few weeks or months the fruits of your labors will arrive (I’m not one of them- I was on call on Valentine’s day please).

I cannot help but wonder, is there a better way to prevent needless loss of lives across the length and breadth of our nation? Will legalizing abortion significantly contribute to a decline in deaths from terribly done procedures? How do we regulate the sale of drugs that sadly, are now routinely used without due consultation to terminate pregnancies? How long shall young Nigerians continue to lose their lives in their prime?

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija


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