As the debate as to whether the President should sign the Safe Abortion Bill continues, the Women’s Group, Ipas, Marie Stopes and some legal practitioners yesterday presented their position requesting Parliament to stick to its positive initial stance of signing the bill.
It could be recalled that in a letter addressed to the honourable House, President Ernest Bai Koroma had urged members to engage the various parties involved in a dialogue to see how best they can address the issue for the betterment of the country.
In this regard, parliament during the past weeks engaged the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) which on Thursday 28th January 2016 presented their position paper calling on Parliament to reject the Safe Abortion Bill and even delete it from the records of the House.
Presenting their position on behalf of ‘We Di Uman Dem’, the President of the 50/50, Madam Isha Fofanah Ibrahim, disclosed that they are aware of the fact that abortion is technically illegal in the country and completely unregulated and many women are exposed to these harmful practices over which there is no accountability for negligence of practitioners.
According to her, their call is based on 16 points including the right to one’s body, personhood of the body, the 13 weeks plus exception besides, it saves lives, saves money, helps the poor, protects women from abuse, increase safe and regulated services, advances gender, equality, and therefore banning abortion does not stop the practice, reduces poverty, reduces crime, avoids punishing victims for a baby should not come into the world unwanted and religious ideology should regulate our private lives, not public policy.
She maintained that all should come on board to support the bill that criminalizes abortion as they support strong legal sanction against anyone practicing unsafe abortion in a negligent way that harms the women, adding that they strongly support the provision that is included in the Act to regulate safe abortion and the penalties contained in it for anyone violating such provision.
Presenting on behalf of Ipas, the Senior Policy Advisor, Arlene Omo Lisk, disclosed that they have been engaging stakeholders from all sectors since 2012 to the end of 2015 on the importance and advantages of the Safe Abortion Bill which most people are complaining that it was not to their knowledge.
She explained that they are now seeing a lot of misrepresentation on the issue at hand which makes it difficult to have a straight discussion that is un-biased which is why they want to take the religious, moral and social sentiments out of the argument as what is being portrayed is based on religious point of view.
The Policy Advisor maintained that they faced similar situation when the Child Rights Act was passed as people were saying it is against the country’s traditions, culture and that it would lead the children to be lawless, but that does not change the way the children are behaving presently.
She disclosed that the old laws did not make room for option which is why they are campaigning for the this bill to become a law as it contain options and penalties for defaulters who might want to go against it, adding that they hope the President will use the advice given to him by Parliament and sign the bill as a way of saving lives of women and girls across the country.
“Any form of abortion whatsoever that is being done right now is illegal,” she recalled, citing the Offences against the Persons Act of 1861 of sections 58 and 59 which makes it an offence for anyone who does abortion no matter the condition involved.
Meanwhile, members of the public are waiting on Parliament to come up with their position on the said debate which is making the round across the country and even abroad.