President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone has refused for a second time to sign into law a bill legalizing abortion.
Specifically, the bill would allow abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, as well as in cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment up to 24 weeks. The bill was passed by members of Sierra Leone’s Parliament in December. President Koroma refused to sign it, and members of Parliament returned it to him in February. Now, he has again refused to sign the bill, and has referred it to the Constitutional Review Committee.
Supporters of the legislation argue that legalizing abortion will help the African nation’s problem of a high maternal mortality rate. In a letter to President Koroma from several groups including Amnesty International, supporters argued:
Unsafe abortions – often resulting from restrictive laws and poor access to sexual and reproductive health services… is one of the main factors contributing to maternal deaths in Sierra Leone.
But opponents contend that instead of fighting to legalize abortion, activists would be of more help to the women of Sierra Leone by supporting increased and improved medical facilities. Archbishop Tamba Charles, vice-president of the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone, says:
No life can be destroyed on the basis of choice, as life is sacred. If they want to fight for the right of women, then let them be provided with the required medical facilities that will help reduce maternal mortality rate in the country.
If other countries are any indication, pro-lifers are right. As Live Action reported in 2013, the most pro-life countries – like Ireland and Chile – have low maternal mortality rates, and it is “[d]eveloped nations with easy access to abortion” which “typically have a higher rate of maternal deaths caused by abortion, despite their generally higher-quality health care systems.”