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Lagos State issues new abortion guidelines

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The Lagos State Government has developed a Safe Termination of Pregnancy Policy Paper to assist health professionals in providing safe and legal abortion services in the state.

Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, said so during a stakeholder meeting to launch the document on Tuesday in Lagos.

Ogboye said this in a statement by Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, director of public affairs at the state health ministry.

According to him, the 40-page policy document, titled “Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications,” lays out guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy under of Lagos State criminal law.

Ogboye noted that the document should provide data and evidence-based information to public and private sector health workers with the skills to provide safe pregnancy termination to reduce preventable deaths.

He said while therapeutic termination of pregnancy was authorized by state law, the lack of clear guidelines had blocked effective implementation at appropriate levels of care, resulting in preventable deaths.

“In 2011, the Lagos State Legislative Assembly updated the Penal Code, providing for abortion to save life and protect the physical health of women.

“While physical health is covered under the Lagos legal framework, law-compliant services are not available in the Lagos State health sector.

“This document provides information on the relevant laws applicable in Lagos State, while providing standards and best practices with respect to legal indications, pre and post procedure care, methods and aftercare.

“I must state here that this document has been the subject of wide consultation with relevant technical actors in the context of state legal and health services,” he said.

Ogboye said the process of developing the guidelines began in 2018 with the ministry-led “Safe Engage Project” hosted by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Nigeria (SOGON), with support from the Population Reference Bureau ( PRB).

He added that public health sector stakeholders worked with key opinion leaders in Lagos and the South West region to develop a bespoke advocacy tool for dismissals in the legal context.

According to him, advocacy messages on the Safe Engage Project focused on two immediate outcomes.

He noted that the outcome included ensuring that safe abortion services were available within legal guidelines in Lagos and the domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, helping women terminate a pregnancy caused by rape or incest.

“To guide implementation, one of the follow-up recommendations from the project was the adaptation of national standards and guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy within legal guidance in the context of Lagos State. .

“The Federal Ministry of Health has developed and disseminated the National Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy, which highlights the compendium of conditions and circumstances under which termination of pregnancy may be instituted.

“The guideline was intended to enhance the ability of healthcare professionals to identify pregnancies for which a legal termination could be instituted.

“Marie Stopes International in Nigeria, in conjunction with the Population Reference Bureau, has offered to assist the state government in adapting the document,” he said.

Ogboye said the process of adapting the national guidelines included technical meetings to discuss the sections of the law supporting safe abortion and the conditions allowed in the legal framework to save the lives and physical health of mothers.

He added that this also included a validation meeting with wider stakeholders to review the document.

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“We hope this release today will help health providers deliver this service within the law,” Ogboye said.

Further, Mr. Emmanuel Ajah, Country Director, Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria (MSION), said the development and dissemination of the policy document showed that Lagos was leading a state-level intervention to stem the tide. unsafe abortions and give women and girls better health outcomes. .

Ajah said abortion in Nigeria was not illegal but restrictive, noting that many health care providers ignored the legal indications for safe termination of pregnancy.

He stressed the importance of health care providers making critical decisions based on sound medical judgment and not religion, culture or other biases, when a woman’s life is in danger. as prescribed by Nigerian laws.

Ajah added that the policy was a demonstration of the state’s commitment to improving maternal health, particularly mitigating the impact of unsafe abortion practices in the state.

Similarly, Professor Innocent Ujah, former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said the guidelines would safeguard the lives of pregnant women whose physical or mental health would be compromised by continuing their pregnancies.

Furthermore, Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa from the University of Lagos Department of Law, and also a consultant on the development of the document, said that the Lagos State Criminal Law of 2011 only prohibits illegal abortion. .

Atsenuwa noted that the document clarifies what legal termination of pregnancy means in the context of the law, adding that training law enforcement officers was essential to understand the context of the law.

(NOPE)