In the past few weeks, we have seen an increase in the denouncing and criminalization of abortion worldwide. Much like Kenya’s decision to drop two female sprinters after the Caster Semenya ruling, it’s no a surprise that this follows after various states in the United States signed extremely restrictive abortion policies into law. After all, the war on reproductive rights and women’s health in general, is a “war without borders.”
On Tuesday, May 21st, Nigerian police officers raided a Marie Stopes Clinic in Lagos and harassed patients and health workers who were present at the time. This incident follows from a protest in Nairobi on May 20th to shut down a branch of Marie Stopes, on the basis that the clinic performs abortions, and the recent Abuja police raid which spurred the #SayHerNameNigeria movement. Marie Stopes is an organization committed to “providing reproductive health and family planning services to the underserved populations worldwide” and Marie Stopes Nigeria successfully provides these affordable services across the country. In addition to their three main centres in Nigeria, they target rural areas through mobile outreach and social franchising in order to improve accessibility to services.
Despite legal restrictions, (unsafe) abortions remain prevalent in Nigeria. In a country with one of the highest maternal mortality ratios — unsafe abortions being a major contributor — the work Marie Stopes does in Nigeria is absolutely necessary and crucial to the health and well-being of women and girls in the country. Guttmacher Institute estimates that women with an unmet need for modern contraception account for 90% of unintended pregnancies in Nigeria, more than half of which end up in abortions. In 2013, only 11% of all women of reproductive age were using a modern contraceptive method. Evidently, banning abortions does not prevent them, but rather, increases the prevalence of unsafe abortions and further undermines the health of women. It is no coincidence that countries with good family planning structures and liberal abortion policies also report low abortion rates. Instead of demonizing their efforts, Nigeria will greatly benefit from aligning with Marie Stopes mission by improving access to contraception and reproductive health services in order to lower maternal mortality rates and prevent unintended pregnancies.
The recent raid of Marie Stopes in Nigeria is a clear attack on reproductive rights and women’s rights in general, and we must fight to #EndWarOnNigerianWomen.
#EndWarOnNigerianWomen - The Consent Workshop
Abortion in Africa - Guttmacher Insitute
Rethinking Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Nigeria - The Republic
Abortion in Nigeria - Guttmacher Institute
Adding It Up: Investing in Contraception and Maternal and Newborn Health in Nigeria, 2018 - Guttmacher Institute
Abortion Worldwide 2017: Uneven Progress and Unequal Access - Guttmacher Institute