Charity Simon, Abuja
Nigeria is ranked among countries in Africa, with high cases of unsafe abortion. According to a World health organization (WHO) research, an estimated five million women are hospitalised each year for treatment of abortion related complications. These include cases such as haemorrhage and sepsis. The research further attributed complications from unsafe abortion to constitute about 13% of maternal deaths globally.
Abortion is illegal in Nigeria. It is however permitted only as a means to save a woman’s life. The practice is also said to be responsible for Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate of 1,100 deaths per 100,000 live births which is one of the world’s highest.
According to conservative estimates, more than 3,000 women die annually in Nigeria as a result of unsafe abortion.
An unsafe abortion is the termination of pregnancy by people lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment lacking minimal medical standards.
Most cases of unsafe abortion occur where abortion is illegal, or in developing countries where affordable, well-trained medical practitioners, are not readily available.
However, the practise has a number of significant consequences with economic implications ranging from the immediate costs of providing medical care for abortion-related complications, costs of medical care for longer-term health situations, lost productivity to the country as well as the social consequences that affect women and families.
That is why an international non-governmental organisation, IPAS, has dedicated its time and resources to work for an improvement in women’s reproductive health and rights.
The policy direction of the NGO is framed within the concept of preventing unsafe abortion, treating its complications, reducing the consequences and increasing women’s access to a broad range of reproductive health services.
At a recently conducted media training for journalists in Abuja, IPAS Country Director and Gender Right Advocate, Hauwa Shekarau, warned that no woman should risk her life, fertility or well-being because of lack of reproductive healthcare.
She said deaths and injuries from unsafe abortion are traumatic because they can be avoided hence the need for sustained advocacy and enlightenment.
The capacity building programme further highlighted the role of the Nigerian laws, as they affect the status of unsafe abortion in the country, with emphasis on inadequate legal framework that include conflicting values.
The role of most customary laws, which do not prescribe marriage age, was also viewed as contributory factor to high incidence of child marriage in Nigeria.
Dr. Chuks Isaacs, of the Zion Foundation Hospital in Abuja, canvassed that access to abortion services is important, and should be available, for women and girls who are victims of sexual violence, rape and incest.
He also made a very strong case for a review of restrictive sessions of the abortion law due to human rights implications of unsafe abortion.
Other experts at the event argued that every adult has a right to sexual and reproductive life. They however expressed belief that the low level of contraceptive use has contributed greatly to the number of unwanted pregnancies in the country.
The experts also called on the Nigerian government to deploy the necessary political will in this direction being a signatory to many international and regional treaties that promote women’s reproductive health and rights.