Abortion And The Need To Scale-up Family Planning Services In Nigeria

August 8, 2020
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Millions of children now in the wombs of their mothers will never be born. They will not get a chance to see or to know their own parents or to enjoy their genetic and legal inheritance.

They will be dispossessed of everything. Why? Primarily because they have come into existence without being wanted and those who do not want them will decide to get rid of them. The execution of this decision is called abortion.

Although many countries do not keep statistics on abortions, there is evidence that millions of “legal” and illegal abortions take place in the world every year. From 50 million to 60 million unborn babies perish each year by abortion. This is like sweeping the entire population of the Hawaiian Islands off the map!

While one may find it difficult to comprehend this figure, 25 million unsafe abortions (45 per cent of all abortions) occurred every year between 2010 and 2014, according to a study by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute published in The Lancet. Meanwhile, majority of unsafe abortions, or 97 per cent occurred in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In Nigeria for instance, the Performance Monitoring Accountability (PMA2020) report revealed that the annual incidence of likely abortions was 41.1 per 1,000 women age 15 to 49, that is, nearly 1.8 million abortions in 2017. When information related to the experience of respondents’ closest confidantes is included, the report stated that number of likely abortions in Nigeria rose to 2.7 million in the year under review.

Meanwhile, more than six out of 10 abortions were considered least safe, and 11 per cent of women experienced complications for which they sought postabortion care at a health facility, says the report. It added that women living in rural areas, women with no education and women who are poor were the most likely to have the least safe abortions.

So why do women commit abortions? “Nobody can stop anyone from having abortions. There are bad things happening everywhere. Nobody can stop people from doing bad things. If I tell you that I have not committed an abortion, then I am telling a lie,” says Mrs Doris Okeke, a 30 year old lady.

“I never intended to commit abortion”, says Okeke, adding that, “I just gave birth three months and then another pregnancy. I was still trying to manage the stress of taking care of my newborn baby. I just couldn’t comprehend how I could manage to take care of my baby and then manage the stress that comes with pregnancy. The only option that came to my mind was to terminate the pregnancy and that cost me my womb.

According to WHO, “When women and girls cannot access effective contraception services, there are serious consequences for their own health and that of their families. This should not happen. But despite recent advances in technology and evidence, too many unsafe abortions still occur, and too many women continue to suffer and die.”

“Increased efforts are needed, especially in developing regions, to ensure access to contraception” says Dr Bela Ganatra, a scientist in the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research.

If all women wishing to avoid pregnancy could use modern methods of contraception, around 25 percent of maternal deaths could be averted, says the Director of Public health, Nasarawa state Ministry of Health, Dr. Ibrahim Alhassan.

Alhassan however called on the government to make reproductive health and family planning essential service available, especially during this COVID-19 period.

The Country Director, Pathfinder International, Dr. Amina Dorayi says reproductive health services are essential to the overall wellbeing of the development of women and also the family.

Dorayi said Nigeria could lose the gains made over the years in reproductive health if the country do not take action to safeguard stronger progress towards women and girls sexual and reproduction health needs. She said; “The current COVID-19 has brought a number of challenges to the fore and in our country, most of these are directly or indirectly related to population and underdevelopment.”

“We are here to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not push us back years behind after the modest strides we have achieved in improving access to sexual and reproductive health services both in nigeria and across the world.”

On Pathfinder International’s contribution, she said the organisation is providing technical abilities to strengthen the supply and demand for sexual and reproductive health services. According to her, the organisation has continued to work with local institutions including advocacy working groups of family planning as well as the media to ensure it maintain these services.

To allay concerns about side effects of contraceptive methods, media advocates can tackle this through human interest, investigative, in-depth features stories amongst others, says Family planning advocate, Mrs. Chioma Umeha.

Umeha, who is also the Chairperson, Society For Media Advocacy on Health formerly know as Family Planning Media Advocacy Working Group, MAWG Lagos said the Group’s role is to bring about positive change by influencing family planning related policies and budgetary decisions using various media platforms.

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