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Liberalization of Abortion Laws In Nigeria – Yes or No?

It was recently reported that Kehinde Olakitan, a mother of four had died in Ogun State, owing to the abortion process handled by a quack doctor. Salahudeen Jamiu, the alleged quack doctor, was apprehended and carted off to the Ogun State Police Command, following a report by the husband of the deceased.

The husband of the deceased reported at Onipanu Division that he received a call from one Dupe Odebunmi who claimed to be a nurse that his wife, Kehinde Olakitan, was sick and on admission at Mojisola Maternity Clinic belonging to the suspect. He also explained that on getting to the clinic, he found nobody there but on his way back home, he discovered the corpse of his wife in front of a building close to his house.

During interrogation, the suspect admitted carrying out an abortion on the deceased who was brought to him by her friend, Dupe Odebunmi and that in fact, the deceased died in the process. He further confessed that he dumped her corpse in the frontage of a house close to the woman’s residence due to fear of being caught.

This very case brings to mind a research I had carried out at a not too distant past, with the aim of unraveling the very reason why the 60% of women who partake in abortion, in Nigeria, choose to do so with the help of untrained personnel. According to research done by the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 456,000 unsafe abortions are done in Nigeria every year. In a joint study carried out by the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Nigeria and Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, estimates of women who engage in unsafe abortion were put at about 20,000 each year.

So, obviously the question to be asked even before we bring in the legal aspect is; why these women feel comfortable engaging in abortion, fully aware of the possible negative effects associated with it.

During the course of my research, I discovered that not many women knew about the standing of the law as regards abortion. In fact, not many women care that the law does not support their actions, practically, they believe they own their bodies and that they are well within the precinct of their right, and as such, shouldn’t be restricted by the law in whatever way. Most women either act on personal affirmations or religious stance on the matter.

I came to the realization that although the liberalization of abortion laws in Nigeria has been debatable for a long time, the opinion of the Nigerian woman on the subject matter has received little attention, more disturbingly, since the laws of the land advocates for freedom of belief.

In Islam, abortion after four months from conception, i.e. 19 weeks gestation, is impermissible, since the belief is that the fetus becomes a living soul four months from conception. On the other hand, in 18 out of 47 Muslim-majority countries, abortion is only legally permitted if the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy. Other reasons that are permitted by Muslim-majority countries include preserving a woman’s physical or mental health, fetal impairment, cases of incest or rape, and social or economic reasons. Muslim scholars have held that the product of rape is a legitimate child and thus it would be sinful to kill this child. Scholars permit its abortion only if the fetus is less than four months old, or if it endangers the life of its mother. The Christian community on the other hand, has a great deal of variation as regards the subject. While some denominations believe abortion to be immoral and outright wrong, some believe it to be accepted under certain conditions.

In the light of this, there is a pressing need to meticulously scrutinize the criminal code relating to this very subject, seeing as the restrictive abortion laws of Nigeria, in my opinion, propel women with unwanted pregnancies, either as a case of rape or comparable misfortune to seek discreet and unsafe abortion, considering the indisputable fact that if Nigerian abortion laws are liberalized, women will most definitely opt for safe abortion from certified medical personnel.

By Azeezat Okunlola, Author of ‘Red Fuse Trip’, currently on sale on okadabooks.com and kindle store.

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