Lagos Govt develops policies on safe, lawful Abortion

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The Lagos State Government has developed a policy document on safe abortion towards guiding healthcare professionals to provide safe and lawful termination of pregnancies in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr Olusegun Ogboye, said this during a stakeholders meeting on Tuesday, where the document was launched.

Ogboye said this in a statement by Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, Director, Public Affairs in the state’s health ministry.

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

Ogboye noted that the document was to provide evidence-based data and information for health workers in public and private sectors with requisite skills to provide safe termination of pregnancy to reduce preventable deaths.

He said that while therapeutic termination of pregnancy was permissible under the state’s law, absence of clear guidelines had stalled the effective implementation at appropriate levels of care resulting in preventable deaths.

He stated:

“In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly updated the criminal code, providing for abortion to save the 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.”

Ogboye said that the process to develop the guidelines started in 2018 with the ‘Safe Engage Project’ led by the ministry and hosted by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Nigeria (SOGON), with support from Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

He added that stakeholders in the state health sector worked with key opinion leaders in Lagos and the southwest region to develop a tailored advocacy tool for terminations within the legal context.

According to him, the advocacy messages on the Safe Engage project focused on two immediate outcome.

He noted that the outcome include ensuring that safe abortion services were 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.

Prof. Innocent Ujah, former President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said the guidelines would preserve the lives of pregnant women whose physical or mental health would be compromised with the continuation of their pregnancies.

Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa at the Law Department, University of Lagos, and also a consultant on the document development, noted that the document clarifies what lawful termination of pregnancy means in the context of the law, adding that education of law enforcement officers was critical with regards to understanding the context of the law.