Njundu Drammeh

Watched this documentary on Al-Jazeera last night and the Trump order of no USA support to projects and programmes which perform or even provide advice on safe abortion. Many projects and programs are sure to suffer or close down and many women and young ladies to suffer as a consequence.

Shouldn’t safe abortion be a legal right for a woman? Should safe abortion not be a woman’s choice? Should a woman be forced to carry a pregnancy which she doesn’t want to keep? Aren’t there a link between maternal morbidity and unsafe pregnancy? In many parts of Africa, including the Gambia, there are laws which criminalises abortion or seriously restricts the right to safe abortion. Isn’t such restrictions a deliberate politicisation of women’s body?

Or it is about pro-life? The right to life regardless? The same argument we advance against the death penalty? Are our anti-abortion stance more influenced by our religion than our love for women?

S.30 (1) of our Women’s Act 2010 recognises the right of a woman to “medical abortion, where the continued pregnancy endangers the life of the mother or the life of the foetus”, and the Government shall bear the cost of the medical services where the woman cannot afford the expenses. S.31 recognises women’s right to health, including right to contraceptive.

But what if the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest and the girl or woman does not want to keep that pregnancy? Are these two conditions covered under S.30(1)?

Our Criminal Code prohibits child destruction (Section 198) and pregnancy for a period of 28 weeks or more is prima facie proof that a woman is pregnant of a child capable of being born alive.

I am pro-life but will support any law or initiative which gives women the legal right to safe abortion without any conditionality as we have in our Women’s Act 2005. It is not just about choice but empowerment of women to have total agency of their bodies. It helps to prevent unsafe abortions, conducted by back street and quack doctors, which increases morbidity among women. We save a life.

Come to think of it, right to safe abortion has nothing to do with promotion of promiscuity and is not a driver. It is a right which guarantees health and well-being of a woman. It guarantees choice and agency.