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Saturday, June 19, 2021

‘Women subjected to rape and incest should have abortion’

 By Tabora Bojang

Women who gathered for a training on comprehensive health education have called for the introduction of a “flexible abortion law” in The Gambia, particularly for women subjected to rape or incest.

The criminal code prohibits abortion but the Women’s Act 2010 allows it under two circumstances: When the life of the pregnant mother is under threat and or when the unborn child might be born with multiple deformities.

Fatou Cham, a senior nursing officer at the Ministry of Health said although abortion is illegal in the country, the law should be relaxed for certain groups of people.

“I think we should look into the policy so that there could be exceptions on certain groups of people. For instance, victims of rape who might be subjected to unwanted pregnancies and want to have an abortion should be allowed to,” she urged.

According to Ms Cham, research has shown that about half of all unwanted pregnancies end up with abortion which she added is mainly done in clandestine and unsafe conditions and can sometimes lead to maternal mortality or morbidity.

Ms Cham made these remarks during a presentation on unwanted pregnancy and contraceptive methods in adolescent health, at a day long workshop organised by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education targeting journalists.

The event was organised to update members of the media on the ministry’s Comprehensive Health Education project designed for introduction into the national school curriculum.

A principal investigator at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education Phebian Ina Grant- Sagnia told The Standard on the side-lines of the event: “The policy only mentioned that abortion is illegal but it did not specify. There is what we called medical abortion, criminal abortion, spontaneous abortion, unspontaneous abortion, voluntary abortion and involuntary abortion. If someone is pregnant and the person is scanned indicating that if the baby comes out it would create problems for the mother and the society then with consent it can be terminated to save the woman’s life. If someone is raped and it has been verified then it [pregnancy] can be terminated. Not only rape but incest [intimate by blood relatives] when accessed forensically then abortion can be held.”

The new Comprehensive Health Education (CHE), will replace the long-existing Population and Family Life Education POP/FLE subject, which has been scrapped mainly due to cultural and religious considerations. 

Sex education was the most heated subject which fanned a flame of controversy in the public schools for years before it was thwarted about a decade ago.

According to officials, the goal of the new Comprehensive Health Education is to avail students the chance to be sexually healthy adults, and provide them with accurate information about human sexuality, risk reduction strategies, contraception, prevention of unwanted pregnancies and venereal diseases among others. 

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