nce again, events continue to show that the war between forces of enlightenment and ignorance continues to rage in Nigeria. The latest is the furore over the Imo state abortion law which resulted in serious altercation between the government and the religious leaders. Recently, it was the legitimisation of child marriage by the senate. These developments have further exposed the primitive state of the evolutionary stage of Nigeria as a society. It would suggest that in spite of all the universities, and thousands of people with PhDs in different fields of study, that Nigeria remains to a large extent a much unenlightened and regressive society with deeply entrenched ignorant religious and traditional beliefs which seem unaffected by knowledge and reason.
Abortion, the termination of pregnancy either willing or unwillingly, is something no normal person would ever wish to happen. In a perfect world, there would be no need for abortion as all sex would be with the right person at the right time and in the right circumstance. Unfortunately, we live in a normal world and something; some normal people may need abortion. It is the responsibility of a good, knowledgeable and insightful leaders to ensure that such needs are met in a non-judgement and none prejudicial manner. One of the duties of the government is to make our imperfect world as good, safe tolerant and peaceful as possible to enable each individual achieve their potential. This is where in my view, the Nigerian leadership has failed and society woefully.
The complexity of abortion stem from the fact that it is an issue of morality, autonomy and individual liberty. This is why those who take only the religious or moral view, attitude or position; will never address it fairly and reasonably. Yes it is right and desirable that all pregnancies should lead to the birth of a life baby. However, as every normal person knows many pregnancies even with the best of intentions and care end in abortion or still birth. Even when the baby is born alive, many die in neonatal period or childhood because of the inability of the parents to give them the care they need to survive, or diseases which could not be cured. Therefore, it is not so strange or unnatural that a pregnancy would not progress to the birth of a baby. What is absurd is the expectation by some people that every pregnancy must end with the birth of another human being as if we live in a world with infinite resources.
The fight to retain the criminalisation of abortion in Nigeria is a misguided pursuit driven by unexamined religious beliefs. What should rightly occupy the attention of the anti-abortion crusaders is the survival of children who have been born alive and not those who no one knows whether they would end up as kidnappers, armed robbers, members of Boko Haram, ethnic nationalists, murders, rapist, corrupt politicians, psychopathic police men and war mongers; or even die in childhood because of parental poverty and lack of care. Nigeria has more pressing health and social needs than the obsession with unborn children who their parents or mothers do not want or unable to care for. Those who love babies so much that they are prepared to relegate the rights, wishes and health of their mothers to the background ,can concentrate in activities that reduce poverty and maternal and infant mortality and morbidity rates and, leave women to decide whether or not they want to carry their pregnancies to term. They can go into adoption and fostering to care for the many children whose parents cannot look after them and many of who gravitate into crime as adults. This would be the reasonable and enlightened attitude under the circumstance. Why is so much energy wasted in discussing unborn babies when many of those who have survived cannot be given good upbringing?
The fact, which religious beliefs and attitude obscures in this debate, is that a woman who gets pregnant is an individual who retain control and right over her body and whatever is in any of her organs. This is an inalienable truth. Therefore, anybody or, organisation which attempts to have control, or the final say on what should happen to whatever is in any part of a womanís body; violates the womanís autonomy. Such person or organisation is attempting to exercise authority over an area of another personís life, where no god has given any individual or organisation control. It is an undisputable truth that a woman has right to decide what happens in or to her body and any attempt under any guise to erode this right is a violation of her person and this should be unacceptable to civilised people. Any attempt by the society to decide what a woman should do with her body, in any way that violates the womanís autonomy, would represent a violation of the woman and invasion of her individual liberty and cannot be right. A womanís right to abortion is a fundamental woman right, which must not be infringed upon and religious morality, is insufficient reason to limit such right in a secular democracy.
This is one reason why the religious position on abortion is inadequate and unjust even though moral. It does not take into consideration the circumstance under which normal individual may find abortion the reasonable option for them within their social, economic and cultural circumstances. A woman, who has been raped and becomes pregnant, has a valid case and reason for an abortion. It must remain her prerogative whether or not no allow such pregnancy to progress. How can anybody, except herself, convince her that carrying the child of the criminal who raped her, would bring about any good to her even though it may, as no one can truly tell the future? Reason tells us that the right person to make such decision is the individual and she should not be pressured or made to feel that aborting such a baby is the wrong thing to do. Under such circumstance, abortion should rightly be presented as one of the options that should be given equal consideration in the search for solution.
What is moral should not be used to justify what violates individual autonomy and liberty. Must insist on separation of religion from politics and avoid doing things simply because our religion justifies it. A society is a mixture of the religious and non-religions, therefore, equity, justice and liberty; must take presence over religious morality: if people wants to build a free and prosperous secular democracy. Moreover, those who are loudest in condoning the criminalisation of abortion are the people who know least about pregnancy, and child rearing and its effects on women. They are often religious leaders, who know very little about sex in the real world, marriage, pregnancy and bringing up children. They are in fact, least qualified to pontificate on the matter, yet often insist that the society must do as they say. Unfortunately, they are often the ones who decide what happens and no wonder the issue of abortion keeps popping up. I believe that all women, single or married; should have the right to abortion when they decided that they do not wish to continue with a pregnancy and attempt to erode this right, either by appeal to morality; or ancient writing in religious books: is the continuation of the oppression and subjugation of women which must now end. Why should a woman be forced to carry a pregnancy because a man refused to use condom?
Haven advocated for the right of all women to abortion on demand, I wish to state that the decision to have an abortion is a very serious one which is not usually taken lightly and which no one should make harder. It comes with very serious risk of medical and psychological complications and consequences, some of which would last the victim a life time. Abortion is something every woman should avoid and when any woman needs it, should be support to experience the best outcome possible. Women can avoid the need for abortion by being well educated, being empowered and practicing safe and responsible sex. In addition government and the society should adopt policies and practices that address the social problems that create the situation that force women to take the part that lead to them needing abortion. As we know, prevention is better than cure. My grouse with these laws is that they always affect the poor who may need abortion to make their lives better while the rich will always get whatever they want whatever the law says.
Encouraging early marriage, as some advocate as remedy for abortions, would seem a magical solution for the simple reason that not all women will get husband early. Why should women who do not get husband early not have the right to live fulfilling lives in whatever way they choose? This would be the unenlightened and wrong approach. Education and empowerment of women which enable them fight for a more equal society are the only way to ensure that religiously sanctimonious, pretentious and hypocritical men, do not continue to find justification to decide what should happen in the innermost part of a womanís body. Abortion should be available to those who may need it and it should not be criminalised. Its continued criminalisation constitutes discrimination, oppression and subjugation of women and it is unjust. Decriminalisation of abortion does not mean the promotion of abortion.
No one should have the right to tell a woman what she should do with whatever is in womb. Decriminalisation of abortion is empowerment and liberation of women. It does not lead to increase in promiscuity, but a more equal society and better health for women. It leads to better protection of women who would have been harmed by criminal or illegal abortion. If the Imo state law is about the empowerment of women to control their body then it is a good law and Governor Rochas Okorocha should not bow to the forces of ignorance, oppression, intolerance and inequality.