Ministers in Sierra Leone have taken a significant step in the direction of decriminalising abortion and overturning the nation’s colonial-era regulation, in a transfer hailed by campaigners and girls’s rights activists.
President Julius Maada Bio stated his cupboard had unanimously backed a invoice on risk-free motherhood, which might develop entry to abortion in a rustic the place terminations are solely permitted when a mom’s life is in danger.
After years of labor by authorities officers and a broad coalition of ladies’s rights teams, the provisions of a protected motherhood and reproductive well being invoice have been authorized by cupboard ministers. Campaigners hope the invoice, which is now being drafted, can be submitted to parliament by September and handed this 12 months.
“At a time when sexual and reproductive well being rights for girls are both being overturned or threatened, we’re proud that Sierra Leone can as soon as once more lead with progressive reforms,” stated President Bio, referring to the US supreme court docket’s determination to overturn the constitutional proper to abortion, which has drawn criticism around the globe.
“My authorities has unanimously authorized a protected motherhood invoice that can embody a spread of essential provisions to make sure the well being and dignity of all women and girls of reproductive age on this nation,” Bio stated on the tenth Africa Convention on Sexual Well being and Rights within the nation’s capital, Freetown, on Friday.
Ladies’s rights teams have fought for years for reform of the colonial-era abortion regulation in Sierra Leone, the place girls face profound challenges in receiving entry to maternal, abortion and contraceptive companies.
The present regulation was adopted in 1861, a century earlier than the west African nation gained independence from Britain. Earlier makes an attempt at reform have failed, together with in 2015, when MPs handed an abortion regulation that will have allowed terminations as much as 12 weeks of being pregnant. The invoice was blocked by the then president, Ernest Bai Koroma, amid strain from spiritual and anti-abortion teams.
Nonetheless, there may be widespread optimism that the most recent invoice will move. Past decriminalising abortion, the provisions of the invoice agreed by the cupboard cowl maternal well being, increasing entry to contraceptives, post-abortion care and different reproductive well being companies.
Whereas the precise circumstances underneath which an abortion can be permitted are prone to emerge solely when the draft invoice is submitted to parliament, campaigners stated World Well being Group tips on abortion have guided the method. The WHO says protected abortions are a vital a part of healthcare.
Regardless of extra ladies and younger girls utilizing fashionable contraceptives, Sierra Leone has one of many highest charges of teenage being pregnant on this planet, with virtually 30% of women between the ages of 15 and 19 giving beginning.
Campaigners say unsafe abortions account for as much as 10% of maternal deaths within the nation, which has the third-highest fee of maternal fatalities on this planet, at 1,120 deaths per 100,000 births in 2017.
Rosa Bransky and Chernor Bah, co-chief executives of Purposeful, a ladies’ rights group, hailed the federal government determination as “a monumental step ahead”, but cautioned that extra wanted to be finished.
“We all know that decriminalisation of abortion is not going to make it accessible to everybody who wants one in a single day, and the stigma inside our communities stays. The federal government now should be sure that the regulation is totally carried out, together with with new tips on abortion provision, coaching for healthcare suppliers, procurement of abortion medicine and funding,” they stated.
Josephine Kamara, a feminist activist from Sierra Leone, stated: “It is a landmark second for women and girls on this nation, and it reveals we are actually constructing a world the place we are able to reside in essentially the most fundamental of dignities: to make decisions over our personal our bodies.
“As a young person, I practically bled to dying after a backstreet abortion. Let this era be the final to expertise the horrors of what occurs when girls’s most elementary reproductive well being wants are pushed underground.”