Abortion is illegal in Nigeria and is punishable with a jail term of up to 14 years depending on the circumstances.
Despite this however, more than 1 million abortions are carried out in the country yearly and about half of those are performed unsafely.
According to a recent study by Guttmacher Institute and the University of Ibadan, approximately 1.25 million abortions were carried out in 2012 as compared to the 610,000 that occurred in 1996.
A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, Abuja, Dr Godwin Akaba has said that more than 456,000 unsafe abortions are performed in Nigeria yearly.
Akaba made the disclosure during a three-day media training workshop on “Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights” organised by US agency, International Pregnancy Advisory Services (IPAS) between October 26 and 28, 2015.
The Chairman of the Association for Advancement of Family Planning, (AAFP), Dr Ejike Orji also said at the workshop that abortion has become the second leading cause of maternal deaths in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) confirmed the seriousness of the situation when on November 4, the National President of its Committee on Girl Child Education, Chidi Esike said that 50,000 Nigerian girls die annually from complications caused by unsafe abortions.
All of this shows that the Nigerian government’s refusal to legalize abortion is doing more harm than good.
The country’s abortion laws do not consider women who have been raped or impregnated by incest. This is why young girls who were tortured and violated by Boko Haram are being forced to deliver the terrorists’ babies whether they want to or not.
The common belief in Nigeria is that abortion is immoral and sinful and that legalizing it would amount to following the footsteps of the “decadent” western world
However, legalizing abortion, with restrictions of course, would ensure that young girls and women can make safe reproductive choices with minimal consequences.
Currently, abortions are being carried out by all sorts of quack doctors with no regard for the health of their patients because their practices are not being supervised.
“If you don’t recognize it, everyone’s going to do it anyway, but it's going to be completely unregulated [and] because it’s unregulated some really nasty things happen,” said Richard Boustred, the Country Director at Marie Stopes International, while speaking to the Pulitzer Centre on abortion in Nigeria.
Unsafe abortions could lead to bleeding, infections, infertility and a lifetime of reproductive health problems.
Contrary to public opinion, legalizing abortion in Nigeria will not cause all women to suddenly decide that they want one.
Having an abortion is a hard decision for most women who go through it, they shouldn’t also have to deal with health problems for the rest of their lives.
Abortion might be a sin according to various religions, but Nigeria is a secular state and therefore its laws should offer protection for both its “sinful” and “sinless” citizens.