The African ‘Women’s Wave’ is powered by pro-choice Christian feminists

The African ‘Women’s Wave’ is powered by pro-choice Christian feminists

January 18, 2019
Meagan Clark

As a young girl without much education, Anwuli moved more than 500 km (or 300 miles) to the sprawling megacity of Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, to find work as a maid. She never imagined her employer, or “master” as the term is still used, a family man with two children, would rape her.

When Anwuli’s pregnant belly began showing, the man’s wife threw her out of the house before anyone could find out what her husband had done. Unemployed and living with a girl friend, Anwuli met a woman named Olive Iroegbu, a community health worker for a Christian organization that aims to educate youth about sexual health and help victims of sexual abuse.


Sierra Leone News: Family planning key to development

Sierra Leone News: Family planning key to development – MSSL

By Sylvia Villa
Wednesday June 27, 2018.

Evidence from the United Nations Population Fund shows that women who have access to family planning and choose to use family planning, have smaller families, higher educational achievements, healthier children and greater economic power as well influence in their households and communities.

Family planning according to United Nations Population Fund is one of the most cost-effective ways of improving health and the lack of it can be a significant barrier to a better life.


Unsafe abortions cause high maternal death rate in Sierra Leone

Unsafe abortions cause high maternal death rate in Sierra Leone

Jan 6, 2017
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality and unsafe abortions account for 10 percent of those deaths, says a report by the country's health ministry and a non-profit organisation IPAS.

Women in Sierra Leone are dying from unsafe abortion methods as President Ernest Bai Koroma refused to sign a law legalising abortion in the West African country.

Sierra Leone's parliament has twice passed a bill that would allow women to terminate a pregnancy up to 12 weeks.

But the bill has failed to become a law and it's been held up by religious groups who oppose it.

Continued at source:

Sierra Leone News: Safe Abortion Act stranded between Parliament and State House

Sierra Leone News: Safe Abortion Act stranded between Parliament and State House

July 25, 2017

The “Safe Abortion Act, 2015, has stalled somewhere between Parliament and State House. The Act will change the 150-year old colonial “1861 Abortion Law” to allow women and girls to terminate a pregnancy in any circumstances up to 12 weeks. The Bill would also allow abortion in cases of incest, rape and foetal impairment up to 24 weeks.

In Sierra Leone, the country with the world’s worst maternal mortality, abortion is illegal in nearly all circumstances and unsafe abortion is estimated to account for 10% of maternal deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that Sierra Leone has the world’s highest maternal mortality ratio at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016.

Thousands of adolescent girls become pregnant in Sierra Leone every year and account for almost 50% of all births.

Continued at source: Awoko:

Sierra Leone: teenage girls are dying from unsafe abortions and risky pregnancies

Sierra Leone: teenage girls are dying from unsafe abortions and risky pregnancies

Abortion is illegal in Sierra Leone, with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the world. Attitudes need to change to save the lives of young girls

Hannah Mitchell
Thursday 20 July 2017

I recently saw a girl in clinic with terrible complications following a caesarean section. The operation had been botched and she had an infection around her uterus. She was in terrible pain and critically unwell. This was in the children’s clinic; the girl was 14 years old.

This scenario is all too common. She is just one of the thousands of adolescent girls estimated to have become pregnant this year in Sierra Leone. In 2013 the country had the 7th highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world, 38% of women aged 20-24 had their first baby before the age of 18. Sierra Leone is by no means an exception. Worldwide teenage pregnancy is a huge issue, 11% of births globally are to women aged 15-19, with the majority of these taking place in low- and middle-income countries.

Continued at The Guardian:

Religious Leaders Thwart Abortion Rights in Sierra Leone

Religious Leaders Thwart Abortion Rights in Sierra Leone

By Ngozi Cole | May 4, 2017

The Safe Abortion Bill
For every 100,000 live births in Sierra Leone, 1,360 women die.

According to a 2015 World Health Organization report, Sierra Leone has the worst maternal mortality rate in the world, and complications from unsafe abortion procedures contribute to 10 percent of these deaths. Thanks to a draconian abortion law, women have to procure abortion by any means they can find, and many either die from hemorrhage and sepsis or suffer severely damaging physical and psychological consequences.

Continued at source: Women's Media Center:

Sierra Leone delegates return from Abortion Confab

By A Special Correspondent
Dec 16, 2016, Awareness News

A two-man delegation from Sierra Leone has returned to Freetown after adequately representing the country in the “2016 Africa Regional Conference on Abortion: From Research to Policy” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The delegation comprising Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation II, Hon. Zulianatu Cooper and Senior Medical Superintendent at the Princess Christian Maternity (Cottage) Hospital Obstetrician/Gynecologists Dr. Alimamy Philip Koroma joined 250 researchers, policymakers, advocates, health care providers, youth, journalists, and donors, all focused on reducing the detrimental impact of unsafe abortion on African women, especially among young women and adolescents.

[continued at link]
Source: Awareness Times, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone religious groups believe abortion law a lost battle

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma (L) pictured on January 28, 2008 with his wife Sia who is supporting a law allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of rape and incest beyond that (AFP Photo/Shaun Curry)

By Rod Mac Johnson and Jennifer O'Mahony

Freetown (AFP) - As the president of Sierra Leone equivocates over signing a bill to extend abortion provision in a country with sky-high maternal mortality rates, its powerful religious authorities believe the battle against it is already lost.

Sierra Leone's parliament passed a law in December allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of rape and incest beyond that, replacing legislation from the early 19th century enabling terminations only if the mother's life is in danger.

The bill, given public backing by the wife of President Ernest Bai Koroma, was expected to receive his signature rapidly to enable it to become law.

For reasons that are the subject of rampant speculation and few concrete facts, he has yet to give his assent, but the coalition of Catholics, Christian evangelicals and Muslim groups that united in stringent opposition to the bill believe the game may be up.

"We are already hearing disturbing reports that even if the president holds back his signature, it is going to be passed and this will be very sad indeed," said Sheikh Alie Kallay, head of public relations for the Sierra Leone Muslim Congress.

"We are concerned about the silence even though we understand the bill has been sent back to President Koroma by the parliament of Sierra Leone," Kallay told AFP.
The Catholic Archbishop of Freetown Tamba Charles also expressed his fears that "nothing had been made known" since the bill landed on the president's desk.

Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country (60-70 percent of the population) but with significant Christian minorities (20-30 percent), according to UN figures, and is often hailed for its inter-religious harmony.

Religious symbols and ceremonies are omnipresent, with a very strong commitment among the population to their various faiths.

The vast majority of religious leaders are opposed to relaxing abortion laws on scriptural grounds, and lawmakers took extensive evidence from Muslim and Christian representatives while drafting the bill, underlining their respected position in society.

The facts are stark: follow-up treatment for women who undergo unsafe abortions costs Sierra Leone's public health system $230,000 annually, according to a recent health ministry report. Deaths from backstreet abortions represent 10 percent of all maternal mortality.
The report described the current law as "restrictive and outdated".

The 2014-15 Ebola crisis, which ravaged the country's already fragile healthcare system, too may have forced the government's hand by underlining the wider economic implications of unsafe abortion and lack of access to family planning.

- 'Misconceptions' -

"There was no access to services or contraception," during the outbreak, which saw teenage pregnancies in particular shoot up, said Ufuoma Omo-Obi, country director for the Marie Stopes reproductive health charity.

"They were at home and schools were closed down," he told AFP. "Ebola decimated both healthcare providers and caregivers," adding that recorded incidents of sexual violence also increased during the period.

According to Omo-Obi, abortions are currently conducted "in the worst places… corner shops… street corners… in the drugstore," using primitive methods including bicycle spokes.

He was also at pains to emphasise that the bill contains provisions for general maternal health, including far easier access to contraception and family planning.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about the provisions of the bill, but it's a game changer for women to be able to access quality services, including abortion," he told AFP.

"Unwanted pregnancies have been identified as a significant problem in all regions nationwide," the health ministry has said, with unsafe abortion in rural areas at particularly worrying levels.

Many believe Koroma must make a decision soon so the divisive Safe Abortion Act can be put to rest and all sides can move on.

If it passes, experts say the law could be viewed as a model for the region. Bodies such as the African Commission on Human and People's Rights have called for greater decriminalisation across a continent that has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world.

Whatever the outcome, those spiritually opposed to abortion have vowed never to stop fighting.

"We are committed to the culture of life and we condemn anything that comes in the guise of development," said the Catholic archbishop.


Religious protests have held back a new law, but momentum is gathering behind it

The Economist

A new push to legalise early abortions in Sierra Leone


It is a familiar story. Women’s rights campaigners marshal scientific evidence and maternal health data. International declarations and regional treaties are invoked. Civil society is mobilised; a draft bill is tabled. Then comes the backlash.

In December, Sierra Leone’s parliament voted unanimously in favour of legislation that would legalise abortion at up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Championed by President Ernest Bai Koroma’s wife, Sia Nyama Koroma, and strongly supported by Mr Koroma himself, the bill’s passage into law seemed all but assured. Women’s rights campaigners hailed it as a landmark moment in the country’s history and a model for the region. But on January 6th 2016 Mr Koroma did something unexpected: he refused to give the bill his assent. Disgruntled parliamentarians were asked to review the bill’s details; public consultations were scheduled. Abortion rights campaigners were shocked: “We didn’t even think there would be objections,” says Aisha Fofana Ibrahim of 50/50, a Sierra Leonean NGO.

That was to forget the lessons of the recent past. A similar fightback happened in Kenya prior to its constitutional reform of 2010, which provided for greatly expanded abortion access, and in Ethiopia in the run-up to its relatively liberal abortion law of 2005. Soon after the passage of South Africa’s 1996 abortion law, still the most progressive on the continent, right-to-life groups brought actions against the government, claiming it violated the constitution. In 2013, the governor of the Nigerian state of Imo apologised to Christians and repealed a law that, if implemented, would have legalised abortion for nearly any reason.

Mr Koroma’s initial refusal to sign Sierra Leone’s draft bill into law fitted with an established pattern of religious protest against abortion reform in the region. Under pressure from the country’s religious authorities—days after the parliamentary vote, Christian and Muslim leaders paid the president a visit—Mr Koroma backed down. “He got cold feet,” says Marge Berer of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, an NGO. She and others also suspect the involvement of American evangelical groups, and even a member of the US Congress, in the local anti-abortion movement. This, too, has precedents in countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia.

Much like the debate that surrounds homosexuality in many African countries, abortion-law reform in Sierra Leone and elsewhere on the continent tends to be framed by supporters and opponents alike in terms of the continent’s colonial legacy. Although there is ample evidence that abortion was practised in pre-colonial Africa—it was generally treated as a private rather than a public matter—religious, often Catholic, critics regard it as a foreign import. Anti-abortion campaigners in Sierra Leone, many of whom participated in a protest march in Freetown, the capital, on January 27th, said in a formal submission to parliament that “the Bill represents an ideology alien to the culture of this country”. Proponents of reform, on the other hand, argue that laws prohibiting abortion in Africa are the real product of colonialism, since almost all of them date back to colonial codes. In Sierra Leone, the existing law is the 1861 Offence against the Person Act, on the statute books in many of Britain’s former African colonies.

Despite the backlash, momentum has gathered behind Sierra Leone’s draft bill. “Everybody has been talking about it,” says Ufuoma Omo-Obi of Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, an NGO. Popular support has strengthened, especially since the country’s Muslim leaders, unlike the Catholic bishops, kept comparatively silent on the matter. Crucially, the debate’s religious dimensions have been overshadowed by public-health concerns: Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, on a continent where almost all abortions are unsafe, in large part due to restrictive laws.

On February 11th, Sierra Leone’s parliamentarians decided to reaffirm their backing for the bill, returning it to the president unaltered. He is expected to sign it soon.

Successful implementation would make Sierra Leone a model for much of the continent. Across Africa, there are moves to liberalise abortion law: Malawi is set to debate a bill this year; Senegal may follow suit thereafter. This comes as the African Union has stepped up its drive to encourage decriminalisation: January 2016 saw the launch of its Campaign For The Decriminalisation Of Abortion In Africa, focused on tackling stigma. On a continent where abortion is still not permitted for any reason in 12 countries, this is progress.

Restrictive abortion laws do not prevent abortion; by the same token, liberal laws do not increase its incidence. But what legal status does affect, categorically, is its safety. Sierra Leone’s lawmakers should be cheered.