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Nigerian religious leaders oppose proposed law to legalize abortion

LAGOS, Nigeria (BP)–A draft law that would legalize abortion in Nigeria is drawing condemnation from the Roman Catholic Church, Protestants, Muslims and other religious groups, Newsroom, an Internet news source, is reporting.

The Catholic Women Organization has been at the forefront of the protest with marches to state and national assemblies. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also is lobbying government officials. CAN is comprised of the Catholic Church, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the Evangelical Church of West Africa, the Organization of African Indigenous Churches and the Christian Council of Churches, which includes the Anglican, Methodist and Baptist churches.

The chairman of the Abia state branch of CAN, Bishop Lucious Ugorgi, declared to state governor Kalu Orji that abortion is a human rights issue. “The right to life of the unborn child is inherent to the child and antecedent to all human rights,” he said. All religious traditions in Nigerian oppose abortion, Ugorgi asserted. Legalizing it would foster an anti-child mentality and help to drastically reduce the fertility rate, the bishop argued.

A supporter of the proposed abortion law, however, maintains that Ugorgi’s vow to celibacy gives him no standing to lobby against it. “What does he know about the desperation that accompanied undesired pregnancies?” asked Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of INCREASE, a group promoting reproductive health and sexual rights issues. “He is not a woman. He does not have a wife or a daughter to understand the pain of carrying a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The Reverend Father has exercised his sexual right by choosing to be celibate and should allow women to also decide what to do with the babies.”

Nigerian law permits an abortion to save the mother’s life. The criminal code, which applies to the mostly Christian southern states, applies a sentence of 14 years imprisonment to anyone who conducts an abortion for other reasons.

The draft law to legalize abortion was submitted to Nigeria’s Constitution Review Committee by the private Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy (CAUP), an alliance of health professionals, journalists, women’s rights activists, researchers and lawyers. “It is going to be an alternative, and women need this alternative,” Aken’Ova said. “Legalizing abortion will not make the incidents of abortion increase. No woman gets pregnant for [the] sole reason of aborting.”

Aken’Ova believes legalizing abortion will make it safe and severely reduce Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate, which is one of the worst in the world. According to CAUP research, about 80 percent of those deaths are attributable to unsafe illegal abortions, which occur at the rate of about one per minute in Nigeria, she said.

The government keeps no statistics on abortion, but according to the International Women’s Health Coalition, adolescent girls represent 80 percent of the cases of complications from unsafe abortions treated in hospitals.

The Catholic Women Organization (CWO) calls abortion murder and believes it must be discouraged to avert God’s wrath on the nations. Christine Asenuga, president of the Lagos Archdiocesan Council of CWO, says abortion amounts to killing of defenseless, innocent babies during formation, which she considers a devilish act to undo the wonders of God’s work. Asenuga urged men to demonstrate their love for their mothers, wives and daughters by rising against the killing of babies in the womb in the name of civilization.

Alhaji Yusmus Yusuff, a chief Muslim imam in Lagos, believes anyone who aborts a child should be punished the same as a murderer. He quoted chapter 17, verses 31 to 33 of the Koran, as saying “kill not your children for fear of what the lord shall provide, sustain them as well as the mother. Verily the killing of them a great sin.”

Iman Quamarudeen Saidulah, citing the Koran, said, “one must not kill the child inside the belly, and anybody who does that commits great sin. Don’t kill because of fear of poverty, because Gods says he is the one that takes care of both the mother and the fetus. But if [you] kill the child you must ensure a query before God.”
Used by permission of Newsroom, at www.newsroom-online.com.

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