Thursday, April 10, 2008

Issues...

"Every well-meaning Nigerian must rise up and be vocal in denouncing any attempt to legalise abortion in Nigeria. Abortion is anti-God. It is against our culture. We should not kill a soul we cannot create. An unborn child has a right to live."
- Andrew Odigie, President, Catholic Knights of Ibadan Archdiocese

Any person who, with intent to procure 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.
- Nigeria's Criminal Code Act 228

The Nigeria Health Review 2006 says that about 10,000 Nigerian women die annually due to abortion-related complications. This is out of the more than 610,000 abortions carried out annually in the country. The report says that many more women, who survive the complications, suffer permanent disabilities.
- "Nigeria: Unsafe Abortion - Need to find a Lasting Solution (allAfrica.com)

"Women need to be educated about their rights over their body and given opportunities to plan their families, but it must be done in a way that protects public morality."
- Saving Nigerians from Risky Abortions, BBC Africa

We've all heard the "what would you do" scenarios...Wife/daughter/self gang-raped and becomes pregnant. Should abortion be an option? Or should she be forced to have the baby and perhaps, give it up for adoption?

With so many pressing issues in Nigeria, it's almost easy to see how abortion has sat on the back burner for so long. (Then again, our Ministhief ;) of Health has had some pressing issues of her own to deal with too). Being one of the people referred to in the allAfrica.com article as the "middle liners" (basically, in search of some approach that allows women to responsibly opt for abortions on a need basis, which would need to be well thought out), i would like to see a lasting solution to this issue, seeing as so many women are having these abortions regardless.

Anti-abortionist groups call for a change in focus from trying to legalize abortion to working to improve the care and support that women receive during pregnancy. But does that address the fact that there are women out there who still feel that abortion is their only option? And what about those who decide that it IS their only option, only to realize (too late) that it wasn't? Would legalizing abortion really lead to rampant promiscuity in our society? Perhaps, but the current law isn't working as is. So what next?

I apologize if this issue has been discussed in the past on other blogs, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this sensitive issue, especially your reactions to this BBC article. Read excerpt below:


Abortion is a taboo subject in Nigeria. The BBC couldn't find any woman who had an abortion willing to speak about it openly.

But 12 women responded to questionnaires about their experiences. The women were contacted though a doctor who arranges abortions by trained doctors at a medical clinic in the capital Abuja.

"People know I am into women's issues," she says, "so when a woman comes to an organisation looking for help, they send them to me." The doctor did not want to be identified because she feared the authorities would prevent her from providing a service she says saves lives.

All but one of the 12 women are single, and all are below the age of 27. Two are still in secondary school. Two women said they had abortions before, and two other women said their boyfriends refused to let them use contraception. Two attempts to change the law were stopped by conservative women's groups.

They say a change in the law would promote promiscuity, and weaken the moral fibre of Nigeria. "Making more abortions available is not the answer," says Saudata Sani, a female member of the House of Representatives for Kaduna state, in northern Nigeria. "Women need to be educated about their rights over their body and given opportunities to plan their families, but it must be done in a way that protects public morality."

Other medical specialists say that the law is just a part of the picture.

"Even if it was possible to get a legal abortion, many women would not be able to get a safe one," said Dr Francis Ohanyido, the president of the International Public Health Forum.

"Medical facilities vary widely and it is almost impossible to guarantee quality."

Cultural taboos mean even if there was a clinic in their town, it would be impossible for most women to go there, he said.

Among the 12 women the BBC questioned, five said they believed it would be wrong to make abortion more easily available. Sharle, a 25-year-old university student, who had an abortion so she could continue her education, said she regretted what she did, saying it was against God's commandments.

Also check out pyoo wata's post on/endorsment of Dr. Ejike Oji, an advocate of women's reproductive rights.

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Meanwhile, if you happen to be in the NYC area, be sure to check out the African Film Festival this week (April 9 to May 26th) as it showcases African cinema at its finest.

21 comments:

Naapali said...

A very sensitive yet topical issue. I will leave my thoughts later when I can be more deliberate in my writing.

Doja said...

Women would always abort unwanted pregnancies wether it is legal or not, it abortion is made legal it would reduce the number of deaths from hidden abortions.
However i am against abortion, unless it threatens the life of mother or baby.

guerreiranigeriana said...

today i am naapali's back-up singer...because i tend to be wordy, i too feel i should go and compose a proper and hopefully brief comment...this issue hits on soooooo mnay issues...let me go and compose...i'm coming...

rukks said...

hehe guerreiranigeriana- back up singer..hehehe

anyway, ive always thought abortion is a personal choice to a woman..

but follow up questions- in a country like nigeria, how many more orphans do u want to see roaming the streets?...bcos u know there will be orphans...

no abortion=^abandoning of kids

i agree with doja...a woman whose desperate enough to get rid of her child must surely have weighed in the moral arguements and will find a way to get one if she deems it necessary...so then does she mutilate her body organs in the process or get appropriate help...

we keep talking about anitabortion as part of our culture...must wonder how much of this culture still deserves preserving...

im not trying to promote abortion here...every life should be preserved...BUT this has gone beyond culture or morals. theres no bloody social infrastructure in place either way for deliberating i.e keep or abort

finally afro..on a related topic...condom ban in anambra state? vraiment?

For the love of me said...

I think abortion should be a personal choice. Particularly when we consider the rate of infant deaths, abandoned babies etc. It may not be the perfect option but it seems like the lesser of two evils.

AlooFar said...

One thing though... some children are brought to this life, only to be left unloved. My verdict, Ban every bill that says no to abortion.

B'tful post.

Uzezi said...

extremely sensitiv topic. my church forbids it, even forbids contraceptive cos sex is meant for married couples and kids r a gift from God. i think if it is made legal, it will reduce lots of deaths and scarrings caused by quack doctors.

Afrobabe said...

I think making it legal will go a long way in stopping the unnecessary deaths....

If I was raped I wouldn't want the child even if I had to use a cassava stem to do the abortion myself...

TheAfroBeat said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts my people....very sensitive issue indeed, but one that needs to be put up there for immediate discussion (instead of trying to pass indecent dressing bills or ban contraceptives (btw, the governor's spokesman or health person in the state came out and said that the governor was just expressing his own personal views and that it wasn't actually a ban...that was the last i heard though)).

I am also on the personal choice camp, but having been raised in a catholic school (though not a catholic myself), i've also been forced to contemplate what the consequences of legalizing abortion COULD be. Like many of you have said, women will still continue to stick iron hangers up their uteri if they feel that's their only option, so i think it's worth saving those lives somehow. I guess we have to fundamentally agree on (as a society) whose rights should come first? that of mother or foetus? (sorry i have to run but as naapali and guerri have said, (me too fit be back-up singer), watch this space...)

guerreiranigeriana said...

in an attempt not to turn this into a post:

...abortion is nothing new...it did not start yesterday and will not end tomorrow...

...abortion is not as clear/black and white as we like to claim it is because unfortunately or fortunately, we are also talking about a woman's body and what she chooses to do with it-especially in many cases after others have chosen what THEY wanted to do with it-resulting in a pregnancy...

...whether we want to believe it or not, our society necessitates and encourages abortion...with the stigma, shame and vileness attributed to having a child out of wedlock and grim future women usually face if they become pregnant before wedding, abortion suddenly seems a 'sweet' alternative...you have to wonder what sort of pressures would push a woman to risk her life in an attempt to take the life of another...

...there comes a time when the 'reality' of a situation must be taken into consideration and even prioritized in front of the 'ideal'...we can all start using our eyes...our society is not prepared to care for the poor, neglected, and unloved children that may be left behind (increase in child abuse, streetchildren, child labor, etc.) nor is it ready to tackle deep-seeded social and cultural issues which result in an abundance of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies (vilification of women only, gender equality, infrastructural problems, access to health services and information, etc.)...

...borrowing from asa, the rivers have begun to overflow...

...i've always wondered why men who purposefully beat their pregnant wives and inducing spontaneous abortion-also known as miscarriage-are not as villianized (is that a word) as women who commit abortion...even using the term commit, implies a crime...

...sorry so long...i couldn't help myself...

Atutupoyoyo said...

I am morally against abortion yet there is sadly a need for it in any civilisation.

Anti-legislation only drives people further underground endangering both mother and child. I cannot begin to list the extreme local methods that I know have been used in abortion attempts. The country unfortunately has to adopt a less dim view towards abortion.

Moody Crab said...

Can we shut that moral compass of ours and be rational here? Nigeria is an inherently immoral society and legalizing abortion or not will not change that. People will continue to have sex (for crying out loud our population is 240 million, surely peopl are f**k**g like rabbits, no?), women will continue to get preganant and there will always be illegal termination.

I think it is high time we deal with the issues that are threatening to 'deal' with us. What is all this talk about losing a life when everday children die due to child abuse (remember the incident in Calabar? The case of child witches) and child labour. Is that not CHILD DEATH? Is that not another form of abortion since abortion is essentially taking a life, no?

The problem is that our government/leaders/policy-makers like hiding behind the cloak of morality/religion. Lets be rational for once!

Naapali said...

A requirement of growing up is growing up. This entails seeing the world as it is as different from the world as we would like it to be. It also involves questioning what the differences between both are and how to bridge that gap if possible.

Most rational human beings regardless of creed would accept that abortions are not desirable in themselves. Most rational human beings can also see that most abortions signal a failure: failure of contraception at least, failure of a relationship, failure of the personal security or integrity of a woman's body, etc. Most rational human beings can agree that limiting the need for abortions by addressing many of the issues that lead to its consideration is socially desirable.

Having accepted all the above, it should be reasonable to conclude that abortions will still happen. A society should then decide what circumstances would be preferable for said abortion. A dangerous basement or a sanitary clinic? Pre procedure counseling and post procedure care or abandonment?

The arguments put forth by the nitwits that govern Nigeria show that they are not rational people. But then no-one ever accused Nigeria of being a rational nation.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Abortion, abortion, abortion. Egyptians practiced abortions by ingesting a now extinct plant which they used consistently after sexual intercourse. In fact, the word virgin apparently does not/did not exist in the ancient Egyptian language.

That being said, I do not believe that legalization of abortions has any correlation to whether women choose to have sex with men or not. And just because women have sex does not in any way shape or form make them less. Rather than focus on trying to keep women's legs closed, how about we spend some time focusing on encouraging men to have less sexual partners and remain faithful to the one(s) they already have. That particular practice has actually worked in a few African countries to lower HIV/AIDS rates, if you can imagine.

I have never had an abortion but know someone that has and if her accounts are correct, the physical effect and emotional/spiritual effects of abortion is enough to discourage women (and men) from having unprotected sex.

So many issues, like this one, come down to education. If women and men are educated (and have access to education) about their sexual options, and have access to proper health systems, then all this energy spent on arguing over abortion in the legislature instead of focusing on improving the health care system, our time and resources would be better spent. As far as I am concerned, abortion should be legal, because women must have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Thus, women (in collaboration with the men in their lives, i.e. the father of the fetus) should decide whether or not to have an abortion.

I would much rather spend time improving the health care system in Nigeria and encouraging health education that would inform men and women that there are options to abortion (i.e. adoption, though not very popular in Nigeria) and of course options to sex (i.e. abstinence) and options to unprotected sex (ie condoms, female condoms, D. Provera etc.)

As long as there is a single reason for abortion (i.e. pregnancy as a result of rape, a high risk pregnancy that will likely cause death of mother and/or child), people should be allowed to decide whether they will take the option. Rather than make the practice illegal, let us encourage the alternatives and empower our people, men and women to make the best decisions for themselves and the nation.

Aspiring nigerian woman said...

I am completely with moody crab here. She completely took it out of my mouth and I could never have said it better.

Olamild said...

One issue I hate to touch on...
It's rampant and it ought to be dealt with but it's just too controversial.

These days, people have different beliefs and it's almost impossible to change what they think or feel. I do not support abortion and I do not support legalizing it... What I support is provision for underprivileged pregnant women... that has not been accomplished over the years....


Would you mind helping me with a report?... I am to write on "Child Labor in Africa".. I am open to ideas from you.

Olamild said...

One issue I hate to touch on...
It's rampant and it ought to be dealt with but it's just too controversial.

These days, people have different beliefs and it's almost impossible to change what they think or feel. I do not support abortion and I do not support legalizing it... What I support is provision for underprivileged pregnant women... that has not been accomplished over the years....


Would you mind helping me with a report?... I am to write on "Child Labor in Africa".. I am open to ideas from you.

nneoma said...

thanks afrobeat for the shoutout.

I just wanted to second some of gnigeriana's points...I would come up with my own points, but I am supposed to be working...sigh...

"...whether we want to believe it or not, our society necessitates and encourages abortion...with the stigma, shame and vileness attributed to having a child out of wedlock..." (ellipsis not my own)

Can I get an Amen, an Iseee or an Ehaaa (for my fellow Ohuhu brethren)? Man, that would cure the scourge of abortion. I witness so many occasions in which I have caught people I respect and admire in Christiandom denigrate young single mothers. Then I ask them if they would have rather seen the young woman abort the baby and keep everything under wraps. They agree that abortion is worse, but I know they still hold their negative attitudes towards young moms.

"...i've always wondered why men who purposefully beat their pregnant wives and inducing spontaneous abortion-also known as miscarriage-are not as villianized (is that a word) as women who commit abortion..."

Even if the beating was not purposeful or results in a spontaneous abortion. The very same people who condemn abortion should condemn any beating of a pregnant woman. In fact they should condemn the beating of any woman since any woman as the *potential* to give birth to new life at any point in her life course. Now that's pro-life, peeps.

TheAfroBeat said...

Wow, THANKS for all the insights people! I just wish the lawmakers could be this open (and honest with themselves) about the non black-and-white-ness of the issue. As much as I moan and groan about some of the inept laws governing our land, i recognize that law and policymaking is definitely more complex than just thinking about the "best interest of the people".

I feel slightly frustrated when we have these really enlightening discussions only to end on a "thanks and goodnight" note. What can we (you and i) do while we wait on someone to change the law around abortions in Nigeria?

For starters, as Nneoma pointed out on her blog, there are organisations like Ipas Nigeria that work to increase women's reproductive rights and to reduce abortion-related deaths.

As Solo pointed out, a lot of this boils down to EDUCATION. Educating women about their sexual options; working to increase sex education in our secondary schools (we can start with our alma maters), spreading the word on the seriousness of the issue (who knows, maybe we can get to the Senate through 6 degrees of separation).

Let's make sure this issue doesn't remain on the back burner...

Sherri said...

am a little late!
am camping with Solo.
am of the opinion that the debate over abortion is putting a bandaid on a cancerous lession.

naijalines said...

Abortion has to be legalised, it's the only way to go. This is the thing I hate most about Nigeria: that ability to go backward when everyone else is moving forward - and the misogynic obsession with curtailing the freedoms of the female gender. Why oh why would a nation inflict such pain and oppression on thousands of women all in the name of religion and sexism. Of whose business is it, what any woman does with her body and what right do these idiots have to decide that a woman has to be a mother, no matter the circumstances? This makes my blood boil.