About 1.25 million abortions occur in Nigeria every year. For this reason, the country is losing most of its daughters to unsafe abortion which is still
restricted under the Nigerian law. JOYCE REMI- BABAYEJU takes a look at the dangers of unsafe abortion and why safe abortion should be legalized
to save lives of women.


AMINAT Ibrahim, a young college girl
from Lagos State was just 16 years old
when she was raped by a secret admirer
who always accosted her each day on her
way back from school.
Unknown to Amina, the rapist had
planned to put her through a sexual
ordeal if she refuses him one more time.
Unfortunately, after being sexually violated,
she got pregnant from that first attempt of
Like many girls who have been raped,
Aminat was afraid to tell anyone her sad
story, not even her mother or her friends.
Aminat’s mother, Mrs Idayat Ibrahim,
a petty trader said, she usually gets back
home very late and each time noticed
that her daughter was always on bed until
one bad day when the story changed. She
was arrived home early enough to see
her daughter writhing in pain in a pool of
Aminat was rushed to a private hospital
where doctors told her mother that she
had attempted to induce her pregnancy.
Aminat has attempted an unsafe abortion
by drinking all sorts of concoctions she
bought from a patent medicine store far
away from her neighbourhood.
Mrs Ibrahim said that it was only a
miracle that Aminat is still alive today to
tell her story. She said the doctor on duty
congratulated her for bringing her dying
daughter on time to the clinic if not she
would have died. Thank God Aminat
is alive but with complications that can
prevent her from carrying pregnancies and
becoming a mother in future.
Mrs Ibrahim, in an emotion-laden voice
thanked God for spearing the life of her
daughter instead of losing her to the cold
hands of untimely death. If had wasted one
more second, her daughter would have
died, she reminiscenced.
According to a research conducted
by a United States-based Guttmacher
Institute, and Ipas, a Non-Governmental
Organisation dedicated to improving
women’s lives through focus on
reproductive health, over 1.25 million
abortions are carried out in Nigeria every
The Guttmacher Institute, 2012, reports
that 1.25 million induced abortions occur
annually and 60,000 are unsafe. Out of
which more than 140,000 women are
hospitalized for abortion complications
and up to 10,000 maternal deaths occur
annually due to unsafe abortions.
Guttmacher Institute in 1996 reported that
Nigerian women do approximately 610,000
abortions, at the rate of 25 abortions per
1,000 women aged 15–44 each year. These
figures are estimated to have increased
to 760,000 in 2006. The research further
revealed that only 40% of abortions are
performed by physicians with improved
health facilities while the remaining
percentage is performed by non-physicians.
And vulnerable Aminat is one of the 1.25

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million Nigerian daughters involved in unsafe
abortion simply because they cannot walk up
to health workers or even family members
to relate their gory stories of how they were
forcefully impregnated and that they want it
removed. This figure, experts say, is just a tip
of the iceberg from the numerous clandestine
unsafe abortions occurring without records.
Most women who resort to unsafe abortions
do so because they find themselves carrying
unwanted pregnancies which would
eventually become a burden or even stigma
on them later. Experts say unsafe abortions
are carried out by fake or unskilled workers
secretly and in unhygienic environments.
Some of the implements used in performing
induced or unsafe abortion include cassava
plant leaves and stem, alligator pepper, native
chalk, native alum and even robin blue used
in using clothes, strong drink mixed with lime
and other concoctions.
Abortion is the deliberate termination of a
pregnancy, usually before the embryo or foetus
is capable of independent life. Medically it
is called induced abortion and it is different
from spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or
World Health Organization, WHO,
defines unsafe abortion as a procedure for

terminating a pregnancy that is performed by
an individual lacking the necessary skills or in
an environment that is not hygienic.
Safe abortion is that carried out by a skilled
healthcare worker in a hygienic environment.
According to Hauwa Shekarau, Ipas Nigeria,
Country Director, in Abuja recently at
Ipas training of Journalists on Increasing
Community Awareness on Women Sexual
Reproductive Health Rights, WSRHRs; in
a presentation said, ‘’women’s health is
human right to health that requires health
systems account for the distinctive needs and
circumstances both of and among women.’’
Dr Godwin Akaba, Consultant Obstetrician
and Gynaecologist at University of Abuja
Teaching Hospital and a resource person at
Ipas training said that Nigeria is one of the
unsafest places for a woman to get pregnant
owing to the number of post-abortion
treatments he has handled and that unsafe
abortion is one of the major killers of women
in Nigeria.
Akaba said that an estimated 1.25 million
induced abortions occur in Nigeria yearly
which is equivalent to a rate of 33 abortions
per 1,000 women aged 15 – 49 years and that
unsafe abortion contributes 13% of maternal
deaths in Nigeria and that
‘’One out of 4 women end up in miscarriages
and 20 women out of 100 would have had a
miscarriage at one time of their lives, adding
that 168,000 pregnant women die yearly, he
According to the gynaecologist, about 212,00
women were treated for complications of
unsafe abortion which represents a treatment
rate of 5.6% and in the Federal Capital
Territory, FCT , where he practices unsafe
abortion accounts for 15.3% of maternal
He said that most of the factors associated
with increased morbidity in women’s health
are from abortion, lack of access to safe abortion
services and lack of contraception access and
use resulting in unwanted pregnancies.

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Nearly 100 women die each day in Africa
from abortion-related complications. More
than 5 million unsafe abortions occur each
year and more than half of the 67,000 global
deaths from unsafe abortion take place in
Africa, these deaths are preventable which
makes them even more tragic, Akaba said.
In a presentation on the causes of maternal
deaths globally, Akaba gave the figure
as 67,000 deaths ear year due to unsafe
abortion. Unsafe abortion at 13%, infection
15%, severe bleeding 24%, indirect causes
20%, Eclampsia 12%, obstructed labour 8%,
other causes 8%.
Despite the turnover of unsafe abortions
and unwanted pregnancies, Nigeria is still
operating the Abortion Law borrowed
from ‘’The English Offences against the
Persons Act 1861‘’ of United Kingdom. The
17thcentury law obviously has outlived its
purpose and as societies change so are the
realities of modern times.
Nigeria’s obsolete abortion law of over
150 years since it was borrowed obviously
contributes to the many cases of unsafe
abortion of pregnancies which most times is
as a result of rape, incest relationships and
pregnancy complications.
Hauwa Shekarau, Ipas Nigeria Country
Director, in a presentation on ‘’Unsafe
Abortion and the Law”, decried the obsolete
Abortion law and called for a review of
the code pertaining to the sexual and
reproductive rights of women in Nigeria.
‘’Nigeria operates multiple sources of law
namely statutory, customary and Islamic
laws. The statutes relating to Abortion in
Nigeria are criminal codes applicable in
the Southern states and the Penal codes
applicable in the Northern states.’’
‘’In the Criminal Code sections 228-230; 297
on Abortion- section 228 states: ‘Any person
who with intent to procure miscarriage of
a woman where she is or is not with child,
unlawfully administers to her or causes her
to take any poison or other noxious thing, or
uses any force of any kind or uses any other
means whatever is guilty of a felony, and is
liable to imprisonment for seven years.’
‘’Section 229 states: ‘Any woman who with
the intent to procure her own miscarriage,
whether she is or is not with child unlawfully
administers to her or causes her to take any
poison or other noxious thing, or uses any
force of any kind or uses any other means
whatever, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to
imprisonment for seven years.’’’
A lot of young girls and women are daily
being raped in addition to the alarming
incidence of incest, does this mean that
victims of sexual violence should be allowed
to carry unwanted pregnancies from such
sexual violence and be forced to live with
such trauma for the rest of their lives?
Nigeria must help to stop unsafe abortion
by signing legitimate and safe Abortion
into law in order to save its daughters and
to eliminate the prevalence of maternal

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