Abortion is the termination of pregnancy and removal of the products of conception before the age of viability, 28 weeks in Nigeria.
Abortion can either be
spontaneous or voluntary (induced)
safe or unsafe
legal or criminal.
In Nigeria today, abortion is attended with cultural, religious and legal hiccups. However, it continues to go on in the background, mostly coming to the fore when things go out of hand and require urgent medical intervention.
On a global scale, the debate goes on about legalization of abortion. In medical parlance there is provision for abortion to be carried out under special circumstances.
The medical concerns of the debate bothers on who administers the procedure, skilled or unskilled personnel? It as well considers whether it is done in an appropriate environment and with the proper tools. This is captured in the definition of “Safe Abortion”
Unsafe Abortion is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a procedure for terminating an unintended pregnancy, carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards or both.1
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), a sequel to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is a 17-pronged package with the 5th goal tagged “Achieve Gender equality and empower all women and girls”. One of the Goal 5 targets 5.6 reads “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences”.2 The provision and argument for safe abortion is embedded in this target.
The cultural and religious concerns of abortion in Nigeria bothers on its categorization as murder. It is argued that a formed fetus or growing pregnancy has begun life and thus must not be tampered with. There are wider arguments about when life actually begins, at fertilization or at implantation? I share in the sentiments that life once begun should not be tampered with. Any life not desired should not be allowed to commence in the first place.
A proper statistic of abortion requests in Nigeria is likely to show a majority of unwanted pregnancies. Pregnancies that resulted from relations between two unmarried people or sometimes between a couple who have not properly applied the rules of family planning.
Some parts of culture and religion in Nigeria abhor prevention of pregnancies by any means deemed unnatural. The only natural means of preventing pregnancy is not having intercourse, having intercourse at a woman’s safe period (when she is not ovulating), or not releasing semen into the woman (coitus interruptus). Some religious sect frown at coitus interruptus.
Other forms of pregnancy prevention which are artificial include use of pills, injections, implants, barrier (condoms), and some permanent methods in some instances (vasectomy-tying the male tubes; tubal ligation – tying the female’s fallopian tubes).
What then is the way out of the “abortion saga” from the cultural and religious perspective?
Let’s call the answer to that “family planning”.
Family planning here will not just be to family settings but to every case where there is a desire to prevent pregnancy.
Abortion is especially prevalent among youths mostly unmarried and is totally preventable. A proper approach to curbing this menace will begin from appropriate sexual education, which should include safe sexual practices, pregnancy prevention, and where to go get some help. Stigmatization and isolation of pregnant unmarried girls should be discouraged. If any girl has failed to prevent pregnancy either by her own waywardness or parents’ negligence or any other means thinkable, it is unfair to leave her to her woes. If we are not going to lend our voices to endorse abortion we cannot afford to be silent when pregnancies stare us in the face. We must support the pregnancy regardless of how it came to be.
Make family planning services available, accessible and non-stigmatised to girls of all ages and we can conclude that no one should ever call their pregnancy unwanted.
You are probably thinking already what of those girls who get pregnant from cases of rape?
Same answer, remove stigma and encourage rape victims to report cases immediately. When they do, they will get medical help to prevent pregnancy from the event. Justice must also be served hot to the perpetrators of rape and their accomplices.
If we have all these in place and working properly, we can then abolish the term “unwanted” from all pregnancies as any pregnant woman can be seen as having kept or having decided to keep the pregnancy.
Some readers are already lamenting how all these measures will encourage premarital sex, prostitution and unfaithfulness to partners. Let me remind you that refusing to enforce the above will not in any way reduce its prevalence. Neither will effecting these measures encourage vices, but will curb the menace of abortion and its complications among those already engaged in these vices and a few who are victims of such evil as rape.
For the sake of clarity, I do not support that abortion be legalized except for medical reasons where the mothers life must be preserved or the “supposed pregnancy” is useless in terms of quality of life.
If I and anyone must refuse to support abortion, then we must be armed with ready alternatives. Asides religious/spiritual empowerment to enable abstinence, the rest who will refuse must also be helped. Appropriate means of pregnancy prevention must be available so that no one ever will be correct to call their pregnancy unwanted, and if your pregnancy is wanted abortion will be unnecessary. And no, sharing condoms free are unnecessary, anyone whose sexual incontinence cannot permit abstinence should go buy it themselves, they are affordable. And condoms are not the only means to prevent pregnancy.
P.S The views represented in this article are personal views of the writer.
Preach Abstinence! Stop Teenage Pregnancy! Stop Abortion! End Rape! Protect the girl-child!
1. www.who.int/ ../en/