The Advocates for Children and Vulnerable Persons Network was among some of the organisations that participated in the one-day Consultation with Civil Society Organisations on the Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy and other related matters.
ACVPN was represented by its Case Manager, Jennifer Nwosu, on November 6, 2023 at the even in Ikeja.
The event was facilitated by the Executive Director of the Women Advocates Research And Documentation Center, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi.
The preliminary discussions bordered on the guidelines which were presented to the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Governor of the state on the acceptance of termination of pregnancies and a safe way to have these terminations without falling short of the law.
This, said Akiyode-Afolabi, was because a lot of women and girls have had to deal with unwanted pregnancies, especially those that stem from rape cases, incestuous relationships, ignorance, forced child marriage, death of a financially supportive partner, mental disabilities, life-threatening illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chemotherapy treatment, heart diseases, congenital diseases and kidney problems.
Nwosu said: “Their goals on these practices come with a 40-page policy drafted by doctors who are specialists on reproductive health and this was done and presented to the Lagos State government on the 29th of June, 2023 and the Policy was suddenly suspended on the 8th of July, 2023 as the press gave it bad reviews, stating that the state government wanted to legalise abortion.
“This they said, failed largely as the governor was seeking re-election for a second term and did not want to enrage the electorates who did not approve of such.
“They also emphasised the steps taken towards this goal by their advocacy group by giving press conferences, awareness walks, rallies and letters to the state house of assembly and the governor, to correct the misconception of the notion of abortion and safe termination of pregnancy.
“They also raised the Project Enhance Agenda, which is aimed at accountability for safe abortion practices and preventable maternal deaths in Lagos State.
“As a representative of ACVPN, I made the stance of our organisation known from the introductions and in further discussions that we are purely Pro-Life and we are not shifting our position.
“This is because even a foetus has a right to live.
“The issues I raised to back up our stance were that irrespective of the attendant problems women and girls face leading to unwanted pregnancies, we know the legal implications and the position of the law in Nigeria regarding abortions and termination of pregnancy.
“Citing sections 228-230 of the criminal code and section 232 of the penal code, I summarised that:
i) an attempt to procure an abortion or get an abortion done by a pregnant woman, carries a jail term of 7 years,
ii) An attempt or the act of inducing or carrying out an abortion by a doctor, health attendant, auxiliary health worker or patent vendor carries a 14-year jail sentence,
iii) Supplying abortifacients, tools or pregnancy-inducing instruments also carries a jail sentence.
“I noted that under Nigerian law, the only situation (abortion) is permissible is if it is done to save the life of the pregnant woman.
“I gave statistics of a Guttmacher Institute data conducted in 2012 that said an estimated 1.25 million abortions were carried out that year by women aged 15-49 years old, which is an average of 33 abortions per 1000 women.
“I pointed out that this is a big pointer to a dwindling population and in 11 years, the numbers are still rising. I further expatiated that most of these abortions are done because there is not enough awareness given to women and girls on the health implications and if there is proper guidance through the kind of work we do, people would be less prone to these options of abortion. This is because we seek to educate on the dangers of sexual promiscuity, early sexual activities and people who are being bullied by sexual predators to give information about such acts for timely intervention.”
At the parley, different groups, especially those advocating for women and girls’ rights, were well represented and siding with the push for the guidelineso but a representative of the Federation of Muslim Women of Nigeria vehemently rejected the guidelines as well, stating the position of their religion and not conforming to the idea of abortion.
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She also spoke of the Islamic injunction of protecting life.
Some other religious groups represented were on the side of establishing a safe abortion practice.
Generally, strategies for ensuring protection and safe termination of pregnancies were discussed, this included campaigns to inform women of their choices, avoidance of quacks in the medical field, teaching of reproductive health at all levels, and provision of services for intervention in cases of rape and incest.