07 April 2008

Abortion in Nigeria

I read this article on the beeb with tears in my eyes. I can't bear to think of women dying so needlessly in Nigeria, because a procedure that is relatively straightforward in the west is denied to them. However, the reason I particularly wanted to highlight this article, is because of the way that it ends.

Two attempts to change the law were stopped by conservative women's groups.

They say a change in the law would promote promiscuity, and weaken the moral fibre of Nigeria.

"Making more abortions available is not the answer," says Saudata Sani, a female member of the House of Representatives for Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria.

"Women need to be educated about their rights over their body and given opportunities to plan their families, but it must be done in a way that protects public morality."

Other medical specialists say that the law is just a part of the picture.

"Even if it was possible to get a legal abortion, many women would not be able to get a safe one," said Dr Francis Ohanyido, the president of the International Public Health Forum.

"Medical facilities vary widely and it is almost impossible to guarantee quality."

Cultural taboos mean even if there was a clinic in their town, it would be impossible for most women to go there, he said.

Firstly, making abortion illegal apart from to save the life of the mother, which is the current situation in Nigeria I believe, clearly and obviously does not prevent women from seeking abortions. It does, however, create a climate in which women find it increasingly difficult to access the care that they require. Furthermore, they are frightened of going to seek medical attention if they start to experience severe pain or bleeding etc after having received an illegal abortion because they are worried about the consequences for them, and for their families. This is costing women their lives.

Secondly, I wouldn't want to presume that I know how to solve all of the problems facing women in Nigeria, when it comes to their reproductive rights. I can fully accept that simply legalising abortion there will not put an end to unsafe practices, and the death of many women. That is why I view it as a first step. Just because something is difficult, does not mean that we should not attempt it in the first place.

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