The debate over whether abortion on demand will be legalized in Nigeria has been ongoing for a while and there is still no viable conclusion on it. This is not separated from the fact that the issues that have to do with life are always sensitive to society and the Courts.
Many insist that all forms of willful abortion should be illegal. And my question to this is why? Follow my thought process on this, please;
When abortion is made illegal, women don’t stop getting abortions. They stop getting safe abortions. For anyone to even think of terminating a fetus, there is a solid reason, and the only way to ensure that the mother doesn’t have complications is access to proper medical care and support, which is only available if it’s legal.
I am pro-choice. I believe every woman has the right to determine her path and destiny in life, including whether she wants to become a mother or not. A woman should have the legal right to determine if she wants to have an elective abortion or not. I mean, it’s her body. She should have a right to dictate what happens to it.
This article is going to talk about abortion and its legality in Nigeria. This is solely my opinion.
What is Abortion?
Abortion means the deliberate termination of a fetus from the uterus.
What the Nigerian law says about abortion
In Nigeria, abortion is illegal. The accused will be imprisoned for seven years, while the doctor who carries out the procedure will spend at least 14 years in prison. There is a clause to this that states abortion should only be carried out if only the woman’s life is in danger. Section 228 in the criminal code act of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria states that;
Any person who, with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years…
According to research done in 2012 by Guttmacher Institute, from data collected from 772 health facilities by Nigerian researchers, abortions are done in Nigeria daily. An estimated 1.2 million induced abortions occurred in Nigeria in 2012. This is equivalent to 33 abortions per 1000 women. Estimated unintended pregnancies were 59 per 1000 women between ages 15 & 49. About 56% of those unwanted pregnancies were resolved by abortion. About 212,000 women were treated for complications of unsafe abortion, representing a treatment rate of 5.6 per 1,000 women. A staggering 285 0000 women experienced serious physical and mental health consequences but did not receive their needed treatment.
The above data is from a country where abortion is illegal. Let’s go on.
There is no doubt that women will have abortions regardless of the law. Whether society likes it or not, it will happen, no matter if it is safe or not. Research has proven this. The crux is that these abortions should be done safely under the close monitoring of qualified health professionals.
No woman should have to go to jail because of choices made concerning her body. It’s her body, and it is her right to do whatever she wants. Society won’t be there to help her when she needs help to cater to her child, so why does society have a say in what she does with it to protect herself? Even the government doesn’t care if she can’t afford to take care of that baby, but they will try and force her to keep it—no such thing as providing funds for the mother.
With the high cost of living and low income haunting the country, raising an unwanted child is very expensive. It is time-consuming. It drains you financially, physically, and emotionally.
Women from low-income backgrounds are the ones who are hit the most with unwanted pregnancies. They are usually the ones who suffer the effects of the abortion ban. These women look for any means possible to get rid of the pregnancies, and these means are dangerous. Quack doctors exploit them for their desperation, which leads to infertility or death in extreme cases.
Teenage girls are not excluded from this discussion. There’s a huge social stigma around sex in Nigeria. Abstinence is preached, but we all know abstinence doesn’t go so well with raging hormones. Because of the stigma and shame from society, a pregnant teenager will try to prevent people from finding out she’s pregnant. There’s even a saying used to shame girls like this, “she don get belle, shakara don end”. This stigma is powerful enough to drive most girls into getting an abortion by all means possible.
Sometime last year, I read a thread on Twitter about how pregnant boarding school girls abort their baby by using an iron cloth hanger to pull the fetus out; this kind of desperation makes a woman insert a hanger into her body, regardless of the risks involved. Risks like bleeding to death or going to jail. The social burden is hard. No woman should have to deal with that.
Societal Concerns on why Abortion should be Illegal
There are some common reasons people give why they believe abortion should never be legalized in Nigeria. These beliefs are not common only in Nigeria but all over the world.
Use of Contraceptives
Contraceptives are advised to be used, but we all can not negate that these drugs disrupt the woman’s body as they contain harmful side effects.
Condoms are also advised to be used by women, but the same society will shame a woman buying a condom in the store. The look one gets from buying a post-pill is another red flag. I remember watching an episode of the hit classic tv show, Shuga and I could taste the shame from a scene where a health worker shamed young girls from coming to enquire about family planning.
In some cases, these post-pills fail. What do you expect them to do? Contraceptive failure doesn’t discriminate against married or unmarried women. So, when it fails, what happens? In your opinion, do they deserve to have an unwanted pregnancy?
In Nigeria, topics surrounding sex are taboo. Most parents avoid discussing this very important topic with their kids or even sugar-coat it. The average Nigerian parents believe discussing the topic of sex is encouraging their kids to engage in the act. They forget that these kids will get an education somewhere else if they don’t, and it is most likely the wrong way.
What does society expect of a woman with more than eight children looking for solutions on how not to birth the new one growing in her uterus? You might say she should have some family planning or stop having sex altogether.
Family Planning has been known to negatively affect a woman’s body. Some have to keep trying and trying to find the right family planning procedure to use, which comes with adverse effects on their health. Perhaps, society should shift its focus to the men impregnating these women.
What about a woman who has been raped. Should she be made to keep the pregnancy as a constant reminded of her predicament? Should a career-driven woman who is not ready to care for a baby have to keep her pregnancy?
Society and the government want them to by keeping that law in place and preventing medical practitioners from openly assisting these women in exercising their human rights over their bodies.
Religion and Culture
Religion and culture are the two prominent reasons abortion is yet to be legalized in Nigeria.
The argument based on religion is taken from the 10th commandment, where it is stated that; thou shall not kill
By this logic, the fetus in a woman’s uterus is yet to be a child. Scientifically, it is still a clot of blood at best, so why have we chosen to deprive a woman of her right by this notion?
I suppose we let the woman decide herself if she wants to commit the “sin” of abortion since it is her body we’re talking about here. I also believe judgment should be left to the Almighty. Society should stop playing God.
Whether abortion bans should be removed should be decided by conscience and reason, not by religion and culture. The woman is the closest one to that decision. She is the one who has her life on the line. She should be left to determine what she wants.
Risk Involved in Unsafe Abortions
Many people believe that abortion can cause a woman to die or lead to future infertility. So can pregnancy, and the risk is much more likely to happen if the ban is not lifted. Abortions will always be done, whether through qualified doctors or the quacks.
According to a study by Obstetrics & Gynecology, the risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than abortion. And Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa with a high mortality rate.
Abortion has a fearsome reputation, and rightfully so, but this belief is based on obsolete and dangerous methods of abortions being carried out in the country. Abortions are risky in Nigeria because people don’t have access to safe procedures; they don’t have access to them because the government made it illegal. If it is made legal, the procedure won’t be risky, and women won’t use harmful substances that might lead them to an early grave.
What is the Way Forward?
It’s the government’s job to make sure women don’t die unnecessarily from unsafe abortion. More women who know the sufferings of women should have a place in the government.
People should be enlightened on the use of various means of contraceptives. Also, parents should be encouraged to educate their children on premarital sex and contraceptives. Do not just preach abstinence alone.
Another way is to make sure women have the financial means and access to health care if they decide to keep the baby. These are ways of reducing unwanted pregnancies.
Women should also have access to safer abortion procedures. The government can ensure this by first lifting the ban and training professionals who can safely carry out the procedure.
If it is legalized, there would be no such thing as one has to visit a quack to get it done. Also, the use of self-harmful medications won’t be a problem.
For the moral aspect, let the person who has decided to get an abortion be the only one to question their morality. Deciding to get an abortion isn’t easy on the person physiologically.
It’s hard enough to want to terminate a fetus but having the world against you is harder. The fetus is not as important as the mother.
People are invested in helping to ensure that the child comes to this world but won’t do anything to help.
If abortion isn’t restricted, we won’t have so many unparented children on every corner of the street.
Lastly, there’s no strong valid basis against abortion, and everything stems from religious and cultural bias.
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Rabi Yahaya is a content writer whose works have been published by prominent websites in Nigeria.
Remotely works with local and international clients to create engaging content for brands. Creating compelling articles and stories that talk about issues concerning women. A budding SEO writer.
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