Lagos Releases Guidelines On Abortion

Lagos Releases Guidelines On Abortion

Lagos State government has unveiled a policy document on the safe termination of pregnancy.

The 40-page policy document, tagged ‘Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications,’ released by the State Ministry of Health, sets out guidelines for the safe termination of pregnancy within the ambit of the criminal law of Lagos State.

Presenting the document, which was launched at a stakeholders engagement, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Olusegun Ogboye explained that therapeutic termination of pregnancy is permissible under the law in Lagos State.

He noted that the policy document was borne out of the need to provide evidence-based data and information for health workers in public and private sectors who have the requisite skills and training to provide safe terminations to reduce preventable deaths.

A statement from the Lagos State Ministry of Health quoted Ogboye as saying, “In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly updated the criminal code, providing for abortion to save 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 Lagos State health sector.

“This document provides information on relevant laws applicable in Lagos State while providing standards and best practices with regards to legal indications, pre and post procedure care, methods and monitoring. I must state here that this document has undergone wide consultation with relevant technical stakeholders within the legal and health service context in the state”, he said.

He explained that the process to develop the guidelines commenced in 2018 with the Safe Engage project led by the Ministry of Health and hosted by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Nigeria, with support from Population Reference Bureau.

He added that stakeholders in the state health sector worked with key opinion leaders in Lagos and the South-West region to develop a tailored advocacy tool for terminations within the legal context, pointing out that the advocacy messages on the Safe Engage project focused on two immediate outcomes including ensuring that safe abortion services are available within legal indications in Lagos and domesticating the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, supporting women to terminate a pregnancy caused by rape or incest.

To guide the implementation, one of the follow up recommendations was the adaptation of the National Standards and Guidelines for Safe Termination of Pregnancy within Legal Indications in 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.  Marie Stopes International in Nigeria in collaboration with the Population Reference Bureau proposed to support the state government to adapt the document”, Ogboye added.

He explained that the process for national guidelines adaptation include technical meetings to discuss sections of the law supporting safe abortion and conditions permitted within the legal framework to save the lives and physical health of mothers; and validation meeting with broader stakeholders to review the document.

Earlier in his remarks, the country director of a leading reproductive health organization, Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria, MSION, Mr Emmanuel Ajah stated that abortion in Nigeria is not illegal but restrictive.

He added that some health providers are unaware of the legal indications for safe termination of pregnancy.

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