Liberia-July 24, 2023- Several Doctors in Liberia are calling on the National Legislature to speedily pass into law an act that decriminalizes abortion in the country. The Doctors believe that medical abortion is safe with minimum health risk and reduces the burden of Post Abortion Care on the health system.
Abortion is reproductive rights for all women and girls Globally.
According to the lead Doctor for the legalization of abortion, Dr. Dahn Henry Tyler III, when abortion is legalized in Liberia, it will address social and economic inequalities and provide an opportunity for women to make define choices that align with their life goals and circumstances.
He made the statement during a press conference on Monday July 24,2023 in Monrovia.
“ Decades of research and evidence from countries where abortion is legal show that access to safe abortion services reduces maternal mortality and contributes to overall better reproductive healthcare outcomes”.
He furthered that legalizing abortion will create a pathway to Reproductive Health Education which would promote responsible family planning and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
“Legalization of abortion would open doors for comprehensive reproductive health education enabling women to make well-informed decisions about their bodies and health. This education would promote responsible family planning, thus reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies”.
The Doctor stressed by legalizing abortion Liberia can make a significant step towards promoting women’s rights, gender equality, engendering public health and subsequently instilling public confidence.
“Finally, we call upon policymakers and the Liberian government to critically consider the broader implications of restrictive abortion laws and to prioritize the health and rights of Liberian women. By legalizing abortion, Liberia can take a significant step towards promoting women’s rights, gender equality, engendering public health and subsequently instilling public confidence.
We believe in fostering a society that respects diverse opinions while prioritizing the welfare of all citizens. Let us come together to engage in open, evidence-based discussions, keeping in mind the best interests of Liberian women and the overall well-being of our nation.
As clinicians and public health professionals, we are dedicated to promoting evidence-based policies and advocacy that prioritizes the well-being and rights of all individuals”.
They mentioned that between the period of 2018-2019, the Health Management Information System of Liberia recorded a total of 15,844 cases requiring Post Abortion Care reported at multiple health facilities.
This figure significantly underrepresents the true burden due to the criminalization of abortion, leaving countless unreported cases and those who never made it to the facility alive.
The report furthered that in Liberia, 16% of all pregnancies end in abortion, a recent study conducted in Liberia between October 2021 and March 2022 by the Ministry of Health and its partners Clinton Health Access Initiative, the African Population and Health Research Center, and the Guttmacher Institute also revealed that the national abortion incidence for the year 2021 was 38,779. Thus, giving Liberia an induced abortion ratio of 229 abortions per 1,000 live births amongst women of reproductive age.
This high ratio of induced abortion could be the effect of section 16.3.4 of the Liberian code of Law (Penal Law), which allows self-abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy. This law creates the possibility for women and other unqualified persons to use harmful substances like cassava stick, broken glass bottles, potassium, pepper, herbs, etc., commonly referred to as RPG to begin the termination of pregnancy. This often leads to severe complications like infection, bleeding, organ/system failure, uterine perforation, and a high financial burden on the family and state. Several available data in the country validate the worrisome nature of these unsafe abortion practices.
Meanwhile, the new public health law that supports legalization of abortion in Liberia was on July 21,2022 passed by the House of Representatives and currently at the Senate awaiting concurrence.
The doctors are hopeful that policymakers at the Legislature will ensure a shift in the rights for abortion and grant the bill as stated.