New Telegraph

150 Organisations Urge Lagos To Reinstate Suspended Guidelines On Safe Pregnancy Termination

In order to curb needless deaths of women arising from unsafe abortion, 150 women’s rights and civil society organisations (CSOs), have appealed to the Lagos State Government to reinstate the suspension of the Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications.

Also, the concerned groups have requested that the guidelines should provide for the termination of pregnancy in cases of incest, rape as well as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

The appeal, contained in a statement released by the representatives of the women groups, was signed by Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, founding director, of the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) on behalf of the 150 women’s rights and CSOs.

However, the appeal was unveiled during a webinar titled ‘The launch of Signature Campaign: Safe Termination of Pregnancy For Incest, Rape and Other Diseases’, held on Monday by the representatives of the women’s rights, CSOs and the media.
A signature campaign to help drive the process of reinstatement was similarly launched during the webinar.

Other speakers at the webinar are Dr. Kehinde Okunade, an associate professor, of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Lagos, Project Director, Vision Spring Initiative, Ngozi Juba, President, Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN), Yinka Shokunbi, among others.

Recall that the Lagos State Government on June 29, 2022, presented and launched the comprehensive 40-page policy document titled ‘Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications, which sets out guidelines to standardise and build capacity for medical professionals, saving lives of pregnant women when continuation poses a danger to their lives and physical health. It aligns with existing laws and domesticates the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, Section 38, supporting victims of rape and sexual violence.

Regrettably, she lamented that the suspension of these crucial guidelines on July 8, 2022, has raised concerns. Although certain religious, cultural, and philosophical convictions opposed the document developed over four years, Akiyode-Afolabi said, “It is imperative to recognise the extensive work by legal and medical experts that has created an opportunity to reduce maternal mortality in line with existing laws.

The guidelines acknowledged legal indications, including obstetrics and gynaecological conditions, heart and vascular diseases, kidney diseases, cancers, blood diseases, psychiatric and other mental disorders, as well as other conditions.

According to the founding director of WARDC, the denial of safe abortion care to survivors of rape not only violates the right to health and privacy but also may infringe upon the prohibition of ill-treatment.

“As a nation bound by the provisions of the Maputo Protocol, which guarantees women’s right to health, including sexual and reproductive health, Nigeria must take all appropriate measures to protect reproductive rights, authorising medical abortion in specific cases.”

Unsafe abortion remains a significant contributor to maternal deaths in Nigeria, constituting 10 per cent of the global maternal death rate and standing as the second leading cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria.

Akiyode-Afolabi said, “We are deeply concerned about the neglect of this preventable issue due to provisions in Nigeria’s abortion laws, which are yet to be reformed to align with international commitments on women’s reproductive rights.”

In 2017 alone, 212,000 women out of an estimated two million annually who had abortions sought treatment for complications, while 285,000 did not receive the necessary care for the severe health consequences they faced.

“This underscores the urgency to address the situation, especially in light of Nigeria’s commitment to achieving the 2030 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), targeting universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services,” she added.

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