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Abortion: Do Women Have Rights?

By Abibatu Lawani (22-09-2015)

The truth is, the word ‘abortion’ is offensive. It doesn’t slide off our tongues with grace and ease. There is no positive pronunciation. That’s why abortion advocates prefer a more positive tone, using pro-choice or reproductive rights.

The abortion law stipulates jail term for both the man and woman. Also, the law says it can only be done to save the life of a woman. In other words, the law only allows women in very critical conditions to have abortion.

Youth, poverty and ignorance have been cited as the main causes of unplanned pregnancies. Among secondary school students, pregnancy means expulsion or withdrawal from school.

Abortion advocates says that we should respect the woman’s choice and rights. The National Council for Women Society CNWS in two separate communiques, have said that the abortion law should be reformed to include incest, rape and severe medical condition as indications to terminate pregnancy.

Opponents of abortion generally contend that it is “a planned assault on life, a murder with no extenuating circumstances”. They acknowledged the right of a woman to control her own body but not, they insisted, “at the price of another life-that of the unborn child”.

The doctors contended that “at the moment of fertilization. There is formed in that one cell, a new human life.

This new life is, with out question, separate and distinct from either parent from whom it springs, and is a new human being … that this new being is both alive and human is not a matter for debate or philosophical speculation.”

On the other hand, proponents of abortion argue that no life is involved in the early stages of pregnancy. “Only when the foetus has reached a point of viability (from 24 to 28 weeks of gestation) that the state may go as far as to proscribe abortion.

The question mostly asked are, ‘what if pregnancy is the result of rape? Or what if the mother’s health is seriously endangered by pregnancy?

Identifying loopholes in the abortion bill, a medical practitional said, “In some circumstances, women are coerced into having abortion, so you punish her if it becomes double jeopardy. A woman that is a victim of rape, or incest and a woman that has suffered severe medical problem will want an abortion, so when you deprive her of that choice, you are depriving her of her right. In all countries that have had very high ration of abortion, the law of that country have been fingered to be the issue when those laws were liberalized or reformed, abortion-related deaths came tumbling down. A woman that is raped and wishes to keep the pregnancy, we support that society should give her all the support that she can get for good antenatal services and good delivery services. Conversely, if the woman feels that the way the pregnancy came, she does not want it and wants it terminated, society should also support her within the limits of the law of the land to have that pregnancy safely terminated, so that she will get healed. I don’t think that there is any sane woman that would want to terminate a pregnancy unless she has a compelling reason.”

According to the proponents of abortion section 297 of the Nigerian criminal code provides sufficient protection.

The section states that a person is not criminally responsible for performing in good faith and with responsible care and skill a surgical operation upon any person for his benefit or upon an unborn child for the preservation of the mother’s life, if the performance of the operation is reasonable having regard to the patient’s state at the time and to all circumstances of the case.”

But all these bring us back to the basic question, what, short of legislation, can be done to solve or at least reduce the growing problem of illegal abortions? The nagging problem of high incidence of illegal abortion in our society remains.

The planned parenthood federation of Nigeria thinks that early sex education, probably starting with both primary and secondary schools, will help.

It notes that “most of our social and economic problems would be minimized if our young people knew more about their bodies early enough to prevent misusing them.”

Abortion is a very touching issue and from all indications debate on it would continue.

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