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Save Our Women From Preventable Deaths- Women Groups Tell Sanwo-Olu 

Considering the fact that the World Health Organisation, WHO, has said that a Nigerian woman has a one-in-22 lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum/post-abortion, over one hundred and fifty women rights and civil society organisations have urged the Lagos State Government under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to save women from preventable deaths by lifting the suspension placed on the Policy Document Guidelines for Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications with immediate effect. 

This appeal was made in Lagos recently following the state’s policy somersault on policy guidelines on Safe termination of pregnancy for legal indications, few days after publicly launching the document as a result of blackmail from some religious quarters.

Speaking on behalf of all the women groups, the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, made it clear that the guidelines seek to save women from dire health consequences and preventable deaths. 

She disclosed that the document is quite timely because 10 per cent of the global maternal death rate comes from unsafe abortions in Nigeria, making it the second leading cause of maternal mortality in the country. 

The group which include the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Women Wing of the Nigerian Labour Congress and that of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) respectively, Women Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Market Women Association, among others, said that women have a right to their bodily integrity and to life.

However, despite the available mind-boggling statistics, the women expressed their anger that Governor Sanwo-Olu took such a decision for political reasons bothering on his second term in office, not minding the consequences of such action on women and girls. 

Governor Sanwo-Olu had on July 8, 2022, directed the suspension of the 40-page policy document titled; “Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications” to set out guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy within the ambit of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, that was launched few days earlier by same government.

Also speaking,  Dr. Mariam Jagun explained that the Lagos State Guideline on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications is modeled after the National Guidelines for Legal Indications (2018) prepared by the Federal Ministry of Health and not that it is a new policy document. 

According to Dr Jagun, the policy document is to guide medical practitioners and other stakeholders on when it is lawful or unlawful to do any acts qualified by the use of the word “unlawful” in some sections of the law. 

“A person cannot be arrested for a medical abortion validated by Section 201 of Criminal Law of Lagos State. 

“The new law provides two lawful grounds for which abortion can be carried out: preservation of a mother’s life and preservation of a woman’s physical health,” Dr. Jagun gave further explanation. 

Both Dr. Jagun and Dr Akiyode-Afolabi reiterated the need for such policy guidelines which is meant to bring about reduction in unsafe abortions as a strategy for improving maternal health and reducing the alarming rate of deaths resulting from unsafe termination of pregnancy.

Dr. Jagun went further to say that Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate is 512 per 100,000 live births, according to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey.

“In 2017, 212,000 women out of two million annually estimated to have had abortions were treated for complications while 285,000 never received treatments for the severe health consequences they faced as a result of unsafe abortions.”

“We therefore call on the Lagos State Government to immediately lift the suspension on the guidelines. We believe that the state government is being blackmailed by religious sentiments. Women have a right to their bodily integrity and life. What the guidelines are pushing for is for us to save women from a good preventable death.

Speaking further on why Nigerian women are in serious need of the guidelines, Dr. Akiyode-Afolabi said that the country is obligated to implement 2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon by governments all over the world at the United Nations in September 2015, with a target of universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

“The current abortion law in Nigeria was instituted by the British Offences Against Persons Act, Section 58, in the 19th century and has not been repealed or amended. 

“In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly amended its Criminal Code to Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011 which has four relevant sections on abortion.

“Sections 145 provides for attempts to procure abortion, 146 provides for attempts to procure own’s miscarriage, 147 provides for supplying drugs and instruments to procure abortions and 201 provides for medical abortion.” She concluded. 

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