This paper examines the controversial subject of abortion, the existing laws relating to the subject and the current stand of Nigeria on the issue. The abortion law shall be examined in relation to existing laws in other jurisdictions, particularly in Europe and America, and such existing laws shall be explained in juxtaposition with the existing Nigerian legislation on the subject matter. The present position of the Nigerian statutes, particularly the Criminal Code and the Penal Code are considered, giving recommendations and opinions especially in relation to the criminalization of abortion in Nigeria, abortion law in relation to the growing population and the effect on Fundamental Human Rights. Finally, the possible incorporation and adoption of the existing law in other jurisdictions in the Nigerian Legal System shall be considered.
Abortion law gives rise to either the permission, restriction or prohibition of abortion. The concept of abortion is very wide, giving rise to controversial topics and opinions on the subject matter. Abortion has been made illegal in many jurisdictions as over 25% of the world’s population live in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, mostly in Latin America, Asia and Africa. However, this does not stop the act from being perpetrated, as various abortion related cases are recorded daily in these jurisdictions which prohibit abortion. Countries have faced a huge challenge in keeping track of the abortions which take place in the state, however, developed countries have been able to keep such records to a high extent unlike underdeveloped countries. For example, it was recorded in 2011, that there were 189,931 abortions to women resident in England and Wales, which is a rise of 0.2% from 2010. The highest recorded number of abortions to women resident in England and Wales was in 2007, with a total of 198,499. It is also noteworthy that there were 189,859 abortions for women resident in England and Wales in 2017 and 194,668 abortions including non-residents. This is an increase of 2.3% since 2016, and a similar level to 2011. Women in England and Wales consist of less than 10% of women of the world’s population, giving room for a rough estimation of the number of abortion cases worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that abortion rates are similar in countries where the procedure is legal and countries where it is not, due to unavailability of modern contraceptives in areas where abortion is illegal. Also according to WHO, the number of abortions worldwide is declining due to increased access to contraception. It should be noted that the concept of abortion has been widely liberalised. Presently, almost two-thirds of the world’s women currently reside in countries where abortion may be obtained on request for social, economic or personal reasons and such countries include; Austria, France and Belgium amongst others. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights: The World’s Abortion Laws Map, 2013 Update Fact Sheet; the legal status of induced abortion ranges from complete prohibition to elective abortion at the request of the pregnant woman. Approximately 26% of the world’s population live in countries where abortion was prohibited without exception or where it was permitted only to save the life of the pregnant woman. These included most of the Islamic states of Asia, almost two-thirds of the countries of Latin America, a majority of the countries of Africa, and only one country in Europe, i.e., Ireland. Approximately 14% live under statutes authorizing abortion on broader medical grounds, such as to avert a threat to the woman’s physical or mental health rather than to her life, and sometimes on eugenic, or foetal indication, which is a known genetic or other impairment of the foetus or increased risk of such impairment, or juridical indication, e.g., rape and incest. Furthermore, 22% reside in countries where abortion is permitted to protect a woman’s health and where social factors, such as inadequate income, substandard housing, and unmarried status, could be taken into consideration in the evaluation of the threat to the woman’s health; or where adverse social conditions alone, without reference to health, could justify termination of pregnancy. Important countries in this group include; Great Britain, India, and Japan.
2.0 HISTORY AND AN OVERVIEW OF ABORTION LAWS
Over the years, there have been various laws enacted in various jurisdictions in relation to the concept of abortion. These laws vary greatly in the circumstances under which abortion was to be either permitted or prohibited.
Abortion has been legalised in many countries due to human advancement and development, preventing the unnecessary suffering and death of women. There were no existing codified abortion laws prior to the beginning of the 19th century. The English law on abortion was first codified in legislation under sections 1 and 2 of Malicious Shooting or Stabbing Act 1803. The Bill was proposed by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough to clarify the law relating to abortion and was the first law to explicitly outlaw it. The Act provided that it was an offence for any person to perform or cause an abortion. The punishment for performing or attempting to perform a post quickening abortion was the death penalty, which was provided for in section 1 of the Act, and otherwise was transportation for fourteen years, which was provided for in section 2. In 19th-century America, there was little regulation of abortion, in the tradition of English common law, pre quickening abortions were considered at most a misdemeanor. These cases however proved difficult to prosecute as the testimony of the mother was usually the only means to determine when quickening had occurred. The law was amended in 1828 and 1837, and the latter removed the distinction between women who were quick with child, i.e., late pregnancy, and those who were not. It also eliminated the death penalty as a possible punishment. The latter half of the 19th century saw abortion become increasingly punished.
Furthermore, in the United States, the Offences against the Persons Act 1861 created a new preparatory offence of procuring poison or instruments with intent to procure abortion. During the 1860s however abortion services were available in various states in the United States such as, New York, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Louisville, Cleveland, Chicago and Indianapolis; with estimates of one abortion for every 4 live births.
In 1869, Pope Pius IX declared that human life begins at conception. He marked his contribution to the abortion debate by removing the distinction between an animated and unanimated foetus from Catholic doctrine, and established the edict that a human should be protected starting from the moment of conception onward. He further made conscious efforts in punishing those that procured abortions at any time of gestation. This practice prevailed within the Catholic Church and excommunication for abortion became Canon Law in 1917, and later revised in 1983. His declaration laid a foundation for the laws enacted in many jurisdictions which state that human life begins at conception.
The 1983 Eight Amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland grants full right to life and personhood, to any “unborn” and prohibited abortion at any point in time during pregnancy. Also, the US Supreme Court affirmed the common law principle that a child in its mother’s womb can be regarded as “in being” for the purpose of resolving a dispute about wills and trusts in its 1885 decision in the case of McArthur v. Scott, implying that an unborn child is considered to have attained full human status. In 2002, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of the United States was enacted, which ensures that the legal concepts of a “person, baby, infant, and child” include those which have been born alive in the course of a miscarriage or abortion, regardless of development, gestational age, or whether the placenta and umbilical cord are still attached. Also, section 1(1) and (2) of the English Infant Life (preservation) Act limits the legality of abortion to those circumstances where the foetus or unborn child is not capable of being born alive. There are other several of such existing laws showing that an unborn child possesses certain rights and also restricting abortion; the Child’s Right Act of Nigeria is inclusive. Section 17(1) of the Child’s Right Act of Nigeria (2003) provides that “a child may bring an action for damages against a person for harm or injury caused to the child wilfully, recklessly, negligently or through neglect before, during or after the birth of that child. In addition, The American Convention on Human Rights, declares human life as commencing with conception and Article 4(1) establishes that life shall be protected in general, from the moment of conception.
However, there was a ground breaking decision in 1938, which governed British thinking about abortion for nearly thirty years. In 1938, the important case of R v Bourne was decided in favour of an abortion performed on a 14 year old girl who had been raped. The court felt that the girl’s mental health would have suffered if she had given birth and this established that the mother’s mental suffering could be sufficient reason for an abortion. The judge, Mr. Justice Macnaghten, stated that if the doctor is of the opinion, on reasonable grounds and with adequate knowledge, that the probable consequence of the continuance of the pregnancy will be to make the woman a physical or mental wreck, the jury are entitled to take the view that the doctor is operating for the purpose of preserving the life of the mother.
More recently, in 2005, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) affirmed abortion as a human right, stating that denial of abortion services in cases of fatal foetal impairments could amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, after holding Peru accountable for not providing access to safe and legal abortion in the case of Karen Noelia Llantoy Huaman v. Peru (K.L. v Peru). It was further recognised by the Human Rights Commission that compelling an individual to carry to term an anencephalic pregnancy can amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and violates the right to privacy. The UNHRC further ordered Peru to compensate K.L, because medical providers denied her, a 17-year-old girl an abortion even though her physicians had determined that the fetus was anencephalic and would not survive past childbirth. The Human Rights Committee further found that Peru’s abortion law entitled K.L. to a legal abortion and therefore concluded that Peru had violated international and Peruvian law by not providing a procedural mechanism to effectuate the right.
Furthermore, it was stated in Paton v. British Pregnancy Advisory Service Trustees, that the foetus cannot, in English law have a right of its own at least until it is born and has separate existence from its mother. The decision of the court in Paton v. British Advisory Service Trustees was brought before the European Commission on Human Rights. The Commission considered the decision vis-a-vis the provision of Article 2 of the European Commission of Human Rights which states that “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law”. At the end of their considerations, the commission concluded that the term “Everyone” applied only to post-natal and that a pre-natal construction of the same will fail. Also, in Winnipeg Child and Family Services v. G, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the law does not recognize the unborn child as a legal or judicial person possessing any rights but has always treated the mother and the unborn child as one legal entity.
There has however been a long controversy as to the restrictive nature of abortion laws. It has been argued by the UNHRC that restrictive abortion laws do not only violate women’s fundamental right to privacy but also violate human rights based on agreements made at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, (which its resulting Programme of Action is the steering document for the United Nations Population Fund), the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and stated in the United Nation’s Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in articles 1, 3, 12, 19 and 27. It was agreed in the UN’s Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women that abortion should be safe and in all cases, women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. It is also noteworthy that restrictive abortion policies are associated with higher rates of unsafe abortions. According to a 2014 UN report, “The average unsafe abortion rate was more than four times greater in countries with restrictive abortion policies in 2011 (26.7 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years) than in countries with liberal abortion policies (6.1 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years)”. The WHO has found that removing restrictions reduces maternal mortality from unsafe abortion.
It is also important to note that countries allowing abortion on request without specifying reasons, sometimes limited to the first trimester of pregnancy accounted for 39% of the world’s population. Abortions on medical grounds are usually permitted beyond the gestational limit prescribed for elective abortions, and parental consent may be required if the pregnant woman is a minor. The countries in this category include; Austria, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the republics of the former Soviet Union, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States, Uruguay, Vietnam, and most of the formerly socialist republics of Eastern and Central Europe. In the United Kingdom, the Abortion Act of 1967, clarified and prescribed abortion as legal up to 24 weeks. The condition under which abortion is permitted varies widely in different jurisdictions. According to the United Nations publication World Abortion Policies 2011, abortion is allowed in 97% of countries to save the woman’s life, 67% of countries to preserve physical health, 63% of countries to preserve mental health, 49% of countries in cases of rape and incest, 34% of countries for economic or social reasons, and 24% of counties on the basis of the woman’s request.
Notwithstanding the wide restrictions under which abortion is permitted, some countries in Europe place a total ban on abortion. Such countries include Vatican City, Malta, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Various decisions have however noted such ban to be a violation of the fundamental human rights of women. Notably, in the case of Mellet v. Ireland, the UNHRC found that Ireland’s abortion ban violated articles 7, 17 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by banning abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and forcing the claimant to travel to the United Kingdom for an abortion. It was further held that denying women their freedom in an area affecting their reproductive function runs counter to the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex, because it denies women their freedom of choice. Abortion ban was further frowned upon in the aforementioned case on the basis that criminalisation of abortion stereotyped women as a reproductive instrument and thus subjected them to discrimination. Also, by prioritizing protection of the unborn over a woman’s health and personal autonomy, women are subjected to a gender-based stereotype that women should continue their pregnancies regardless of circumstances, because their primary role is to be mothers and caregivers, thus infringing on her right to gender equality.
A 2018 global report on abortion found that 25 million unsafe abortions are performed every year and 97% of them are in developing countries, causing many women and girls to die of complications. It found that between 8 to 11% of maternal deaths around the world relate to abortion, resulting in 22,800 – 31,000 preventable deaths each year. Furthermore, nearly all deaths and morbidity from unsafe abortion occur in countries where abortion is severely restricted. Lack of legal access to abortion often leads women to seek abortion services from unskilled providers or under unhygienic conditions, exposing them to a significant risk of death or injury.
There are also laws in countries with liberal abortion laws that protect access to abortion services. Such laws seek to protect abortion clinics obstruction, vandalism, and such other actions, or to protect the employees of such facilities and the patients from threat and harassment.
3.0 ABORTION LAW IN NIGERIA
In Nigeria, there are two major existing abortion laws, the law of the Northern states and the law of the Southern states. The Northern states, make use of the Penal Code (Northern Region No. 18 of 1959), while the Southern states, make use of the Criminal Code Act [Nigeria], Cap C38 LFN 2004. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is basically pro-life, therefore, there are certain provisions in the Constitution to the effect that every person has a right to life and nobody should be intentionally deprived of his life except in the execution of the sentence of a court where a person is found guilty of committing an offence. This accounts for why abortion is generally regarded as illegal in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s abortion law makes it one of the most restrictive countries regarding abortion. Abortion in Nigeria is recognized only on the basis that the mother’s life would be severely endangered, and this exception is recognized only under the penal code as the criminal code out rightly criminalises abortion. Under the Criminal Code, abortion is illegal and carries a heavy jail sentence of fourteen years imprisonment.
In the Southern states, the Criminal Code is enforced. Sections 228, 229 and 230 of the Criminal Code provide for the abortion laws. Section 228 of the Criminal Code states that;
Any person who, with the intent to procure miscarriage of a woman whether she is or is not with a child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
Section 229 of Criminal Code provides that;
Any woman who, with the intent to procure her own miscarriage, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any means whatever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or used to her, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
Section 230 of the Criminal Code provides that;
Any person who unlawfully supplies to or procures for any person anything whatever, knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment of three years.
The above statutory provisions support the previously stated fact that Nigeria’s abortion law is very restrictive. However, this does not stop the act from being nevertheless perpetrated in Nigeria and this has led to a number of unsafe abortions. This further buttresses the point that an estimated 97% of unsafe abortions occur in developing countries, such as Nigeria, where, on average, each woman will experience one unsafe abortion during her child-bearing years.
Sections 232, 233, and 234 of the Penal Code provide for the abortion laws. Section 232 of the Penal Code provides;
Whoever causes a woman with child to miscarry shall, if the miscarriage be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished with a term of imprisonment which may extend to fourteen years or with fine or both.
The Penal Code provides clearly, as seen is Section 232 above that abortion is permitted only where the mother’s life is to be preserved. This is deemed to be a more reasonable provision than the criminal code, as it was drafted to suit the socio-cultural and religious lifestyle of the northerners. Based on the decision in the case of R v. Edgal, which followed the English case of R v. Bourne, it is now established that abortion undertaken to preserve the life of the mother would not amount to culpable transgression of the Criminal Code. Apart from preserving the mother’s life, any other reason for abortion in Nigeria is a crime. It is appalling that in some cases, Nigerian courts still make use of the archaic provisions on abortion which have been long repealed by English law, which Nigeria essentially lifted verbatim. It can be deduced from Section 228 of the Criminal Code that medically conducting abortion by doctors and post-abortion care for such women are felonies under the section. The Penal Code however tried to adjust the abortion laws to suit the socio-cultural and religious background of the northern people.
The major cause for abortion in Nigeria is unwanted pregnancy and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 40% of pregnancies worldwide are unplanned due to non-use of contraception, ineffective contraceptive use or method failure. In Nigeria, due to the fact that abortion is illegal, a lot of women resort to unsafe abortion procedures. The importance of safe abortions cannot be over-emphasised and in 2013 the Committee on the Rights of the Child General comment No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, provided in article 24 that “The Committee recommends that States ensure access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services, irrespective of whether abortion itself is legal”. Also, General comment No. 22 (2016) on the right to sexual and reproductive health, provided for in article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states that, “Essential medicines should also be available, including a wide range of contraceptive methods, such as condoms and emergency contraception, medicines for abortion and for post-abortion care, and medicines, including generic medicines, for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV”.
A restrictive law that only allows termination of pregnancy to save the life of the woman contributes to the high rate of unsafe abortion in Nigeria, in other words, abortion policies, therefore; adversely affect the lives and health of women in Nigeria. Of the total number of pregnancies that occur each year in Nigeria, 63% end in planned births, 10% in mistimed or unwanted births, 11% in induced abortion and 16% in miscarriage. Roughly one in five pregnancies each year in Nigeria are unplanned; of those, slightly more than half end in abortion. The broad reasons for unsafe abortion procedures include; social, cultural, economic and religious reasons. A major disadvantage of Nigeria’s restrictive abortion law is that those who cannot embrace unsafe abortion are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies, notwithstanding the negative effects that it might have on them. In the long run, women with unwanted pregnancies may suffer various hardships such as, break in education, financial breakdown, psychological trauma and in some cases, such women may abandon their babies. It is obvious that in such instances, a safe abortion would be a better option than subjecting women and babies to such hardships.
4.0 THE CONNECTION BETWEEN EXISTING ABORTION LAWS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
All states have an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. Therefore, where there is an unreasonable restriction to safe and legal abortion, a number of human rights may be at risk. Some of these rights include; Right to life, Right to health and health care, Right to dignity of the human person, Right to information, Right to non-discrimination and equality, Right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Right to privacy, Right to decide the number and spacing of children, Right to Security of a person, Right to liberty, Right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, and Right to freedom of conscience and religion. Also, human rights bodies have provided clear guidance on when there is a need to decriminalize abortion, and have emphasized that access to abortion is a matter of human rights. Ensuring access to these services in accordance with human rights standards is part of State obligations to eliminate discrimination against women and to ensure women’s right to health as well as other fundamental human rights.
International human rights bodies have characterized laws generally criminalizing abortion as discriminatory and a barrier to women’s access to health care. They have recommended that States remove all punishments for women who have done an abortion. These bodies have also requested that States permit abortion in certain cases, such as protecting the life of the mother. Denying women access to abortion where there is a threat to the woman’s life or health, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest violates the rights to health, privacy and, in certain cases, to be free from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
The strict abortion law can be said to be a violation of the right to dignity of the human person, contained in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 5 of the African Charter of Human and People’s Right. The abortion law, which leads women to unsafe abortion exposes women to suffering and indignity, therefore serves as a violation of their fundamental human rights.
In protecting the right to dignity and protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, The Special Rapporteur on torture has called on States to ensure that women have access to emergency medical care, including post-abortion care, without fear of criminal penalties or reprisals. Significantly, the Committee against Torture, in its Concluding Observations, has called on states to eliminate the practice of extracting confessions for prosecution purposes from women seeking emergency medical care as result of illegal abortion.
Furthermore, the restrictive abortion law of Nigeria can be seen as an infringement of the right to privacy which is provided for in Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution. Also, Article 17 of the ICCPR protects privacy and it provides that:
No one shall be subject to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy family, home, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
In respect of this right to privacy, Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, submitted a report to the UN General Assembly in October 2011, which stated, “Criminal laws penalising and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realisation of women’s right to health and must be eliminated. These laws infringe women’s dignity and autonomy by severely restricting decision-making by women in respect of their sexual and reproductive health.” This also goes on to show that there is a further violation of the right to dignity of the human person, provided for in Section 34 of the Constitution as laws which restrict and penalize abortion are infringing on the right to the dignity and autonomy of women as it limits their right to decision making especially as it concerns their sexual and reproductive health. Also, in the case of Roe v. Wade which was built on the precedent established in Griswold v. Connecticut, the American Supreme Court held that laws banning abortion violated individual’s right to privacy. It is obvious that the restrictive abortion law which exists in Nigeria is a clear violation of this right as women have the right to choose what happens to their body. Women should be given total control over their sexual and reproductive choices.
Furthermore, in relation to the right to health, on April 4 April 2016 the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health stated that; In connection to sexual and reproductive health rights, the Special Rapporteur recommends that Governments decriminalize abortion and guarantee all adolescents access to confidential, adolescent-responsive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health information, services and goods, including on family planning, counselling, pre- conception care, maternal care, sexually transmitted infections, diagnosis and treatment, as well as modern forms of contraception, including emergency contraception, and safe abortion and post-abortion services.
Also, in protection of the right to freedom from discrimination, the CEDAW Committee, which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), said in a 2014 statement that “Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity. As such, States parties should legalize abortion at least in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life and/or health of the mother, or severe foetal impairment, as well as provide women with access to quality post-abortion care, especially in cases of complications resulting from unsafe abortions. States parties should also remove punitive measures for women who undergo abortion.” It has made similar recommendations to many governments when it reviews their compliance with the treaty. The recommendations made in these “concluding observations” typically call on governments to legalise abortion in the circumstances noted above, decriminalize in all cases, and guarantee access. Furthermore, UN special rapporteurs focusing on a variety of human rights issues, as well as the UN working group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, have called for decriminalisation of and access to abortion services.
In addition, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and the Committee against Torture, have also called removal of penalties for abortion and for measures to ensure safe, legal access to abortion, also, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged governments to decriminalize abortions in all circumstances, and remove barriers to access.
5.0 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ABORTION LAWS AND THE GROWING POPULATION AND THE CONSTANT NEED FOR FAMILY PLANNING
Over-population has long been projected as a reason for a legal abortion and advocates proffer that only involuntary contraceptive abortion and sterilization measures can prevent the impending catastrophe of over population. This suggests that pre-viability foetus has no right but simply an unjust aggressor and a parasite. In such a case, the mother is allowed an adequate defence against such an aggressor. And the only defence is the elimination of the foetus, that is, abortion.
The UN General Assembly has for years, held the opinion that under no circumstances should abortion be regarded as a method of family planning. However, WHO researchers devise strategies to promote abortion and measure abortion access around the world, setting the stage to help groups that will carry out this work permanently through a network that would report, monitor, and evaluate uptake and utilization of contraception and safe abortion care services. This rationale behind this is to reduce the growing population of the world as there is a high increase in unwanted pregnancies which eventually lead to abortions.
About 35 million abortions occur in developing countries each year. Approximately 20 million of these are unsafe abortions, and cause about 67,000 deaths as a result of related complications. These deaths represent 13% of all pregnancy-related mortality and in some countries as much as 25% of maternal deaths. In developing countries, one of every 75 women die of pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, compared to one of every 7,300 women in developed countries.
If contraception were accessible and used consistently and correctly by women wanting to avoid pregnancy, maternal deaths would decline by an estimated 25–35%. Fifty-five million unintended pregnancies in developing countries occur every year to women not using a contraceptive method. Another 25 million occur as a consequence of incorrect or inconsistent use of a contraceptive method and method failure. This goes to show that family planning reduces abortion, thus decreasing the risk of maternal death and it is evident that family planning interventions have a role to play not only before a woman has become pregnant, but after she has had an abortion or miscarriage.
The international health community has identified post-abortion care (PAC) as an important strategy to reduce maternal mortality by treating complications related to unsafe abortion and miscarriage, and by providing post abortion family planning counseling and services to prevent repeated unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
6.0 THE POSSIBLE INCORPORATION OF THE EXISTING ABORTION LAW IN OTHER JURISDICTIONS INTO THE NIGERIAN LAW
The Nigerian law on abortion, as has been previously discussed, provides for a very strict law on abortion as opposed to other jurisdictions. The negative effects of this restrictive law are many, having impacts on the woman, the unborn child and the society at large. The question for consideration is whether this restrictive law on abortion can be abolished in Nigeria and the liberal laws which exist in several other states can be incorporated.
There have been several attempts to liberalise the position of the Nigerian law on abortion and these attempts have failed because they were not recognized and passed into law by the National Assembly.
In 1981, the Nigerian Society for Gynaecology and Obstetrics sponsored a bill to reform the abortion law in Nigeria, which was led by Dr. Obatayo Oguntayo. The Bill was called the “Termination of Pregnancy Bill”, however, this bill was rejected and was not passed into law. It proposed that;
It shall be lawful and legal when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered practitioner if two registered practitioners are of the opinion formed in good faith:
• that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to life of a pregnant woman or of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of the family, greater than if the pregnancy was terminated; or
• that there is substantial risk that if the child was born it would suffer such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped
Also, in 1992, the Ministry of Health led by Prof. Ransom Kuti, sponsored a draft decree called “The Termination of Unsafe Pregnancy and Other Related Matters”, which aimed at reviewing and amending the Nigerian Abortion Law, however this bill was also rejected.
Despite this trend of rejection of liberalization of abortion bills, in the last ten years, several countries have liberalized their abortion laws and due to advancement and growth, it is safe to say that there could be a possible incorporation of this liberalized abortion law in Nigeria.
The findings of this article have provided a detailed explanation of the existing abortion law in various jurisdictions in comparison with the existing abortion law in Nigeria. Abortion continues to be a very pressing issue, raising various questions and comments. However, as has been discussed earlier, each jurisdiction has the privilege to enact their own existing abortion law. Nevertheless, the solution to unsafe abortion in Nigeria which is a major problem facing the country is the liberalisation of the abortion law as it exists in other jurisdictions, as a liberalised abortion law would allow women to carry out safe abortions, reducing the risk of loss of life and other disadvantages which may come with unsafe abortions