As American women in parts of the United States fight to have the right to choice literally given back to them, Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio, introduced an act to decriminalize abortion in July.
“At a time when sexual and reproductive health rights for women are either being overturned or threatened, we are proud that Sierra Leone can once again lead with progressive reforms,” said President Bio according to The Guardian, referring to the US supreme court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
The Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Act would overturn a strict ban on abortions and help reduce Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rate which ranks the highest in the world.
Abortion is not permitted for any reason in 10 out of 54 African countries.
According to a 2018 Guttmacher Institute report, an estimated 93% of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. Time Magazine further elaborated that some 90 million (5%) women of reproductive age live in countries that prohibit abortion altogether.
“This monumental step forward is a victory for our communities and the coalition of women’s rights organizations and movements in Sierra Leone who have been advocating for legal, policy and social change to decriminalize abortion. The news of the act shows that President Bio and parliament are listening to women’s rights organizations,” says Rosa Bransky and Chernor Bah, co-CEOs of Purposeful, an Africa-rooted global hub for girls’ organizing and activism.
“However, we know that decriminalization of abortion will not make it accessible to everyone who needs
one overnight, and the stigma within our communities remains.”
“My government has unanimously approved a safe motherhood bill that will include a range of critical provisions to ensure the health and dignity of all girls and women of reproductive age in this country,” Bio said at the 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights in the country’s capital at the start of the month.