By T. R Dixon
MONROVIA: Several doctors, clinicians and public health professionals have expressed support for the legalization of abortion in Liberia.
Speaking recently at a joint press conference held in Monrovia, under the banner: “Doctors in support of the revised public health law,” Dr. Dahn Henry Tyler, lead campaigner; Dr. Richard J. Doe, and Dr. James Heigize noted that when laws restrict criminalize abortion, they do not prevent abortion.
Instead, the Doctors said, those laws end up pushing more women towards unsafe abortion practices.
The situation, they added, sometimes leads to health complications and deaths.
The medical professionals stressed that when abortion is legal, it will help to ensure women’s access to safe procedures in licensed medical health facilities.
This would help to improve women’s health and reduce maternal deaths related to abortions.
Commenting on Women’s Reproductive Rights, they pointed out that, women should have the right to make informed decisions about their bodies, health and future.
According to the medical experts, access to information empowers women to exercise their reproductive rights, allowing them to make informed choices in difficult circumstances.
On the issue of addressing social and economic inequalities, they indicated that women in vulnerable socio-economic situations often endure the most restrictive abortion laws.
According to them, decades of research and evidence from countries where abortion is legal show that access to safe abortion services reduce maternal mortality and contributes to the overall better reproductive healthcare outcomes.
“Legalizing abortion provides an opportunity to address social and economic inequalities by enabling women to make choices that align with their life goals and circumstances. Legalization of abortion would open doors for comprehensive reproductive health education and would also enable 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,” they stressed.
They reiterated that countries that have legalized abortion have demonstrated improved maternal health indicators and have upheld individual’s rights and autonomy.
The medical experts added that emulating international best practices will contribute to Liberia’s progress towards achieving better health outcomes.
Making reference to what they called” Article 16, they disclosed that it draws specific attention to protection of women’s right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children.
They stressed that unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality which will be a win-win situation for women in Liberia.
They also called on policymakers and the government of Liberia to critically consider the broader implications of restrictive abortion laws and ensure the health and rights of Liberian women.
They emphasized that, by legalizing abortion, Liberia can make 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 and engage in open evidence-based discussions, keeping in mind the best interest of Liberian women and the overall well-being of our nation,” they noted.
They also pledged their full dedication to promoting evidence-based policies and advocacy that prioritizes the well-being and rights of all individuals in the country.
According to the medical practitioners, there have been different opinions in the media by some religious and medical groups on the issue of abortion.
The doctors indicated that while they acknowledge the rights of others to express their views on all matters, they strongly disagree with the positions that continue to criminalize abortion, especially with the current burdens on the Nation’s health system in providing post-abortion care.
They recalled that between the periods of 2018-2019, the Health Management Information System of Liberia highlighted a total of 15,844 cases at multiple health facilities that require then, post abortion care.
However, they asserted that this figure significantly underrepresented the true burden due to the criminalization of abortion, leaving countless unreported cases and those who never made it to the facilities alive.
“Please take a second and imagine the number of unreported cases and the ones that do not reach the health facilities,” they noted.
They also said, in Liberia 16% of all pregnancies end in abortion, a recent study conducted in Liberia between October 2021 and March 2022 by the Health Ministry and its Partners-Clinton Health Access Initiative, the African Population and Health Research Center and the Guttmacher Institute revealed that, the national abortion incidents for the year 2021 were 38,779.
They said this Research report gives Liberia an induced abortion ratio of 229 abortions per 1,000 live births amongst women of reproductive age.