-Nimba women discourage abortion, rally legislature 

BY: Shallon S. Gonlor

NIMBA COUNTY – Like most African countries, Liberia has firmed restrictions on abortion. 

It is illegal for a health worker to execute an abortion except, in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality or risk to the woman’s physical or mental health. 

Accordingly, Women Voices Newspaper exclusive interview with a group of courageous women in Nimba County who failed to be named shared their heart-breaking stories of abortion. 

The women varied in age, race and position in society, but they united to express the hurt and betrayal they experienced as a result of abortion due to some men inhuman attitude.

They told our Nimba County Correspondent that broken relationships, deception, and how they sought numbness in alcohol, drugs and sex are factors of abortion.

The women opened by recalling the pain caused by miscarriages, the result of uterine scarring due to their past abortion.

They added by saying they chose abortion because of financial constrained, which they said, would do everything in men power to emotionally and verbally coerce them into getting an abortion.

At one very intense moment, another woman cried, as she spoke of her breast cancer, which she said was caused by abortion. She then lifted her shirt to reveal a scar where her breast used to be.

Crying in a loud voice, she told reporters she was glad to have the scar as a sign of the suffering she endured for her aborted child.

Mocked and rejected by society, the women spoke not for self-gratification, but for the healing of all other women who experienced post-abortion trauma, urging women to unite and be silent no more for the future well-being of women and their pre-born children.

The group of courageous women sensitized young women and girls about unsafe abortion and the harmful practices of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country. 

The women further detailed that it is expedient to enlighten young women and teenagers about the effects of unsafe abortion.

Midwives are also put at risk, even though they are trusted health professionals that women turn to for help when pregnant, in communities, clinics and hospitals.

Liberia’s new public health law, which was passed by the House of Representatives in 2022, is currently being debated in a special session by the Senate, where it is facing a barrage of opposition from abortion opponents. 

A provision in the bill, which contains a range of other public health elements, would make abortion legal up to 18 weeks of pregnancy as long as it is done by a doctor. 

The Ministry of Health worked with health law experts in the U.S. and U.K. to draft the law after a major country-first survey released in April by the Ministry in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and others found unsafe abortions caused shocking outcomes for young women and the health system.

The study found more than half of all pregnancies in Liberia in 2021 were unintended. 35% or more than 38,000 – ended in abortion. Alarmingly, more than six in every ten women who had an abortion had moderate to severe complications. 

Unsafe abortions are a major contributor to Liberia’s “very high rate of maternal mortality,” according to a 2020 report by the World Health Organization.  

Also, leading human rights campaigner and prominent US politician, Congressman Chris Smith, has called on the new Liberian Government and senators to remove the abortion section in the Public Health Bill.

The Public Health Bill, which includes the extreme abortion section, is currently under consideration by the Liberian Senate.