A mother’s cry for help: we need safe, legal abortion in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, access to safe and legal abortion services is limited, particularly in rural communities where cultural and religious beliefs often influence attitudes. However, at the Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights Organization (WHRRO) we are working to promote safe and effective self-managed abortion in these communities. To truly make a difference, we must talk about abortion without pointing fingers and instead create a safe space for open and compassionate conversations.

As a mother in a rural Sierra Leonean community, I know the struggles women face when it comes to reproductive health.

Many of us have little access to contraceptives, leading to unintended pregnancies. When faced with an unintended pregnancy, some women resort to unsafe and potentially life-threatening methods of abortion due to a lack of access to safe and legal services. This is why it is crucial to discuss safe and effective self-managed abortion in a compassionate and understanding way.

Abortion is a contentious issue around the world, but especially so in rural Sierra Leone.

Lack of access to safe, legal abortions means that many women face dangerous procedures or are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. This is not only a violation of their reproductive rights but also a matter of life and death. As a mother in rural Sierra Leone, I am crying out for help to ensure that all women have access to safe, legal abortions.

Currently, abortion is only legal when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.

The government of Sierra Leone needs to enact a safe, legal abortion bill that protects the health, dignity, and well-being of women.

However, changing the law is only the first step. We also need to have compassionate conversations about abortion in rural Sierra Leone. Many people view abortion as a moral issue, rather than a health issue. This leads to stigma, shame, and judgment of women who have had abortions or are considering them.

We need to shift the conversation towards one of compassion and empathy.

We need to recognise that women face complex and difficult decisions when it comes to their reproductive health. It is important to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment when discussing this topic. By approaching the conversation with empathy and understanding, we can create a safe space for open communication and help women feel heard and understood.

In addition to changing the conversation around abortion, we also need to ensure that women have access to comprehensive reproductive health care.

This includes access to contraception, education about sexual health, and pre-and post-abortion care. Women need to be able to make informed choices about their bodies and have the support they need to navigate the complex decisions around pregnancy and parenting.

As a mother, I know that having a child is a joyous experience, but it is also one of the most significant decisions a woman can make. We need to ensure that women have the agency and support they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

WHRRO urges the government of Sierra Leone to enact the proposed safe, legal abortion bill and work towards creating a society where women’s reproductive health is a priority.

Sierra Leone cannot afford to delay the protection and promotion of maternal health any longer. Every day that passes without the enactment of the Safe Motherhood Bill puts countless lives at risk. The time to act is now, and I believe that with our dedicated efforts, we can achieve positive and lasting change for mothers and children.

By Aminata Munu, Director of Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights Organization (WHRRO) – a SAAF grantee partner in Sierra Leone.

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