By Sola Ogundipe

The Federal government has been tasked to recognise women’s sexual reproductive health as part of essential health care by committing to the legislation and implementation of policies that facilitate access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.

Making the call on the occasion of the 2022 International Safe Abortion Day, the Country Director of Ipas Nigeria Health Foundation, Mr. Lucky Palmer, said such policies must include safe abortion and post-abortion care services.

Further, Palmer harped on the inclusion of the repeal of harmful policies in addition to addressing the structural barriers embedded in social norms, laws, and policies that prevent individuals from realising their sexual and reproductive health and rights and exacerbate the multiple crises the nation is currently experiencing.

Noting that the International Safe Abortion Day is set aside to identify with millions of women worldwide who are experiencing torture through  forced pregnancies or unsafe abortion because of denied access to safe abortion,

The day is marked worldwide by a wide range of women’s health and rights groups, health professionals, policymakers, and parliamentarians committed to women’s health and wellbeing, working not only at the grassroots and national levels in their countries but also at the regional and international levels.

According to Palmer, the theme for 2022, “Abortion in uncertain Times”, is a welcome development given the current humanitarian crisis in Nigeria and other parts of the world, resulting in the deterioration of health and social infrastructure.

“Unsafe Abortion is said to be one of the causes of maternal deaths worldwide. In  Nigeria, Unsafe Abortions contribute 13 per cent to the causes of maternal mortality.  Nevertheless, Nigeria has a restrictive law that is often not understood by major stakeholders, as seen in the Lagos State Standards & Guidelines for Safe  Terminating Pregnancies for Legal Indications, leading to the high maternal mortality we currently face in the country. 

“Some countries, such as Ghana and Benin, have interpreted their existing laws to  recognise the importance of safe abortion services for women’s health and wellbeing. For example, the Ministry of Health in Ghana made significant efforts  to expand post-abortion care and the grounds for safe abortion services, including rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or disease, or to protect physical and mental health.

Nigeria is a signatory to most international and regional frameworks such as  CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). These conventions and protocols guarantee the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of women and girls, but we have yet to domesticate and operationalise them.

“Abortion is health care and a human rights issue, not a religious or moral subject.  Nigeria’s government must recognise this and honour its international commitment to respect human rights,” Palmer asserted.

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