The Sierra Leonean government has passed a bill that would decriminalize abortion in the country, especially as it is faced with unfortunate statistics of one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
President Julius Maada Bio on Friday, mentioned at the 10th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights in Freetown, that his government unanimously supported a risk-free maternity bill.
The President claimed that the law would guarantee the health and dignity of all girls and women of childbearing age in the country.
Bio said he was “proud” that Sierra Leone was enacting “progressive reform” while women’s sexual and reproductive rights were being overturned or threatened.
Key conference organizers hailed the move as a big step for women’s and human rights groups in Sierra Leone. The president further stated that the country’s Parliament will debate and vote on the law soon.
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Sierra Leone’s current abortion law dates to 1861, a century before it gained independence from Britain. The existing law prohibits the procedure unless the mother’s life is in danger.
Health officials estimate that high-risk abortions are responsible for about 10% of maternal deaths in the small West African country.
Recall that the United Nations Population Fund reported 1,120 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in Sierra Leone in 2017, one of the highest mortality rates in the world.
However, In 2015, Sierra Leone’s Parliament passed a law on safe abortions, but then-President Ernest Bai Koroma refused to pass it due to pressure from religious groups.
Currently, Female genital mutilation which affects nearly 90% of women in the English-speaking country, ravaged by an 11-year civil war that saw thousands of women raped, is expected to decline if the president’s plans are set in motion by Parliament.