Saturday, 2 April 2016

SIERRA LEONE AND THE ABORTION RIGHTS BILL

SIERRA LEONE AND THE ABORTION RIGHTS BILL

I was in Freetown on the 13th of December through the Christmas period through the early days of this new year, when the debate about Sierra Leone's abortion rights bill began, and gained momentum.






In  December 2015, Parliament in Sierra Leone unanimously passed a bill giving the right to women to terminate a pregnancy in any circumstance up to 12 weeks, and up to 24 weeks in cases of incest, rape and foetal impairment.


Religious leaders ( from the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone, representing a powerful constituency in Sierra Leone) made a hurried presentation to H.E, President Bai Koroma requesting him to decline to sign the bill, on the grounds that it would weaken the moral fabric of the nation, and even more, erode the spiritual roots of women and young girls in the society.

What I gather from their arguments is that, if passed the bill, it would encourage teenagers to be more promiscuous, and therefore would end up with more unwanted pregnancies, and consequently do more abortions, all of which imply taking lives which is a sin against GOD and a further erosion of the spiritual rectitude of our fragile nation.


Debates on issues like these would always be heated, passionate and divergent and it is almost always inevitable that people will take sides, but I believe debate is always healthy. Through debate we get an idea of each other's viewpoints and if we are open enough, and less dogmatic we can appreciate other people's views and reach reasonable compromise. For a Nation that recently went through 10 years of harrowing civil war, the desire to promote the sanctity of life is understandable, and I agree there can be no if's or buts about this -- " the sanctity of human lives".


And this is where I believe that opponents of the bill have critically -- too critically narrowed their definition of sanctity of life. Permit me to paint picture. Suppose I had a twenty year old daughter who was pregnant under any circumstance imaginable, and by some stroke of fortuity as well, also finds herself so mentally traumatized and by extension physically compromised in such a way that her very life was at risk. With all due respect to society and societal laws I will, by myself champion that cause to terminate that pregnancy with everything that I possibly have and if need be I will by my own personal drive, use our lives as a launch pad to begin to unravel and repeal the present anti-abortion law. This is how I personally feel about the current anti-abortion law. If we say human-life is sacred. The word must, as a matter of definition be all inclusive, although even I admit , crystallizing that definition does require more than this vague piece.


WHAT IS THE REALITY WITHOUT THE ABORTION RIGHTS BILL?

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that society puts enormous pressure on teenage girls to avoid getting pregnant at all costs. If we truly are honest with ourselves, we will also admit that our teenage girls and women in general are very sexually active. And if we are really, truly honest with ourselves we will admit that our young girls and women are losing their lives in the hundreds on a daily basis due to abortions carried out by unqualified persons, experimenting with unprofessional and unsafe techniques and drugs, while operating in unhygienic and unsafe environments.

Now, if we are really really, and truly truly honest with ourselves, we will definitely admit, that most of these young girls and women do have religion, and are intrinsically so afraid of perceived societal repercussion that this is why they are driven to seek abortion underground

The reality is that the abortion rights bill will encourage all those desiring to seek abortion to be bolder and approach qualified medical personnel to counsel, and carry out safe procedure, thereby ensuring that life is not lost during this procedure.



Every teenage girl and woman for that matter, has a minimum of thirteen years invested in their lives. Every death from an unsafe abortion procedure, highlights a minimum of thirteen wasted years.

FOUR MAJOR MYTHS ABOUT THE ABORTION RIGHTS BILL

Opponents of the abortion rights bill believe signing this bill into law would cause an increase in the number of people seeking abortion.

My thoughts: FALSE.
  REASON : There must first be a statistic on the number of actual abortions carried out, and deaths resulting there from in the last five years at least, to make any credible inferences or deductions.

Opponents of the abortion rights bill believe that if the bill is not passed into law teenage girls and women would not go for abortion, and their lives will not be lost.

My thoughts: FALSE.
  REASON: Those who want to get abortion will always find a way to get it done and if the bill is not passed into law, they will end up more often than not as a death statistic.



Opponents of the abortion rights bill believe that the life of the unborn child is more important than the life of the mother.

My thoughts: HIGHLY DEBATABLE.
  REASON : A parent must be psychologically prepared, and adequately healthy to cater to the needs of a child, from infanthood until, at least the teenage years otherwise that child may not even get beyond the age of five and examples abound in our dear Sierra Leone. As a matter of fact, according to WHO Sierra Leone has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.






Opponents of the abortion rights bill believe that if the bill is passed into law teenage girls would become more promiscuous and women would engage in more sexual infidelities than at present.

My thoughts: HIGHLY DEBATABLE.
  REASON: Promiscuity and sexual infidelities are more a reflection of the types of role models, and characterization models that our societies uphold and celebrate. I have long believed that many of our social ills can be tackled to a large extent by creative media approach to promote sexual abstinence among young people and greater commitment to relationships in older people. This however will first require a clear media policy by our home government, and should be communicated as our preferred national strategy with incentive to media houses and media practitioners who adopt this approach.


My conclusion:
While this debate is not unique to Sierra Leone or third world countries for that matter we must all, as Sierra Leoneans endeavor to bring to the table our different arguments and positions with an open mind, no matter how silly or ridiculous they may seem, because our collective future may very well depend on how well we can mix and match all of these to carve laws that are suitable to our unique environment.



The ultimate benefit will be well grounded families, fulfilling longevity, children that will enjoy their childhood and grow into responsible and caring adults.

** Please feel free to share your own views with us in the comments box.

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