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Justification of Women’s Right of Access to Safe and Legal Abortion in Nigeria

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image of African Journal of Legal Studies

Abortion remains one of the most controversial, emotional and burning political issues of our time. Unsafe abortion is a serious public health problem and human rights issue. The pervasive criminalization of abortion in Nigeria is a serious obstacle to improving access to safe and legal abortion. Women’s lack of access to safe legal abortion is a major cause of high rates of maternal mortality. The Nigerian government’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligations under national, regional and international law is largely responsible for this situation. Overcoming these considerable barriers requires governments to sustain a firm commitment to women’s human rights and to ensure access to safe and legal abortion services. Women’s restrictive legal access to safe abortion services violates their human rights and is perhaps one of the pervasive manifestations of unjustified discrimination against women. This article attempts a justification of women’s right of access to safe and legal abortions within national, regional and international laws to which Nigeria is a signatory. Criminalization of abortion leads women to obtain unsafe abortions which threaten their lives and health. The denial of free access to abortion service is a denial of their fundamental human right. Using an analysis of legislations and case laws, we posit that advancing access to safe abortion by the Nigerian government is a necessary requirement to save women’s lives, protect their rights to health, equality and human dignity as specified under the Constitution.


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