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Lagos suspends safe abortion guidelines

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By Abraham Adekunle

Lagos governor directs suspension of the state’s guidelines on abortion.

The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has directed the suspension of the guidelines that the state released earlier on safe termination of pregnancy. The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi disclosed this in a statement released in Lagos on Thursday, 7 July 2022. The commissioner noted that the set of guidelines had generated massive public outcry, and this necessitated its escalation to the governor. The commissioned also said that the governor had advised that key stakeholders and the public be sensitized to ensure a clearer understanding of the objectives of the guidelines.

“To this end, we are suspending the implementation of these guidelines in the meantime for the Executive Council to deliberate on this matter and ensure adequate public sensitization and stakeholders’ engagement to reach a consensus required for a successful guideline development,” the commissioner said. In his words, the ministry is seeking different methods of eliminating illegal abortions and ensure maternal mortality is reduced to the bare minimum. That is, to ensure that the mother does not die at birth and the family unit disrupted.

The guideline was to reduce maternal mortality according to the law.

Earlier on 28 June 2022, the Lagos State Government had developed and launched guidelines for the development of safe and lawful abortion services within the ambit of the state’s criminal law. The 40-page policy document titled “Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications,” was presented by the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye. The secretary said that the need to have those guidelines was borne out of the desire for evidence-based data and information for health workers in the public and private sectors.

He explained that while therapeutic termination of pregnancy is permissible under the law in Lagos State, the absence of clear post-procedure guidelines has hindered its effective implementation and resulted in preventable deaths. He said, “In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly updated the criminal code, providing for abortion to save the life and protect the physical health of the woman. While physical health is covered under the Lagos legal framework, services conforming to the law have not been available in the procedure of the state’s health sector. This document provides information on relevant laws applicable in Lagos State while providing standard and best practices with regards to legal indications, pre and post-procedure care, methods, and the monitoring.”

The 40-page document, an adaptation of the national guidelines.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, criminalizing abortion after six weeks and relinquishing the decision to choose to legalize abortion to individual states. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court in which the court ruled that the Constitution of the United States generally protects the liberty to choose to have an abortion. The recent decision has generated public outrage and even several public protests. It is in this Fashion that the 40-page policy document sought to adapt the national guidelines.

“To guide the implementation [of the guidelines], one of the follow-up outcomes recommendations of the project was the adaptation of the National Standards and Guidelines for Safe Termination of Pregnancy within Legal Indications within the Lagos State context. The Federal Ministry of Health had developed and disseminated the national guidelines on safe termination of pregnancy. Which highlights the compendium of conditions and circumstances under which termination of pregnancy could be instituted. The guideline was intended to build the capacity of health professionals to identify pregnancies for which legal termination could be instituted,” the commissioner said.

The ministry remains committed to providing quality healthcare.

Abayomi said that illegal abortions and high risk pregnancies leading to unresolvable complications rank high among the several factors that contribute to maternal mortality. “In this regard, it became imperative to examine, in keeping with existing national and state laws and policies, if there are indeed justifications and medical reasons to offer abortion to a woman whose life is threatened by a pregnancy,” he said. He also noted that following this, the guideline was developed over four years through painstaking work by experts in Law and in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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