By Moiyattu Banya
A group of over 50 Sierra Leonean women have marched on the nation’s parliament house to affirm their support for a Safe Abortion Bill passed last year.
Authorities prevented the women from invading a meeting convened by Christian and Muslim leaders on Wednesday to discuss the bill which was brought before parliament in December 2015, but is yet to be signed into law by the president.
The bill would legalize abortion for women and girls with pregnancies of up to 12 weeks and even after 13 weeks under special circumstances which include sexual assault, rape, incest or medical complications which might put the life of a mother or child at risk. Legislators have worked closely with women’s activist organizations and key stakeholders to debate the benefits of the bill for women as well as the healthcare system in Sierra Leone.
The women, who were from a coalition of different women’s rights groups, have championed the bill as a victory for reproductive rights saying it would reduce illegal and unsafe abortions. Sierra Leone has the world’s highest maternal mortality rates in the world according to the World Health Organization, with a high proportion of deaths resulting from unsafe abortions.
“It is not a fight against morality or religion,” Jayne Flynn-Sankoh, an activist said. “It(the bill) is a pathway to the independence of women …the Bill seeks to protect the sexual and reproductive health rights of women.”
“We are not saying that we don’t want to have babies, we are saying let us make a decision.We need to protect our women and girls who are getting pregnant through rape, incest or have a medical condition that may put her life or the fetus in danger. It is about safety and choice,” Ajara Bomah, another activist, said.
The activists say they will continue to organize more advocacy efforts around the Bill.
to listen to Nassau Fofana, a former gender advisor to the President’s interview on BBC radio about the bill.