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Abortions: Lagos releases new policy guidelines

Lagos state government on Tuesday unveiled new policy guidelines on the provision of safe abortions for residents.

This is contained in a statement by the state ministry of health.

According to the ministry, the guidelines will focus on ensuring the reduction of “preventable deaths” caused by unsafe abortion procedures.

“In a bid to guide healthcare providers in Lagos State to provide safe and lawful abortion services within the ambit of the law, the State Government through the Ministry of Health has developed a policy document on safe termination of pregnancy,” the statement reads.

“The 40-page policy document, tagged ‘Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications’ sets out guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy within the ambit of the criminal law of Lagos State.”

Speaking at a stakeholders’ event during the presentation of the document, Olusegun Ogboye, permanent secretary, Lagos ministry of health, said the policy document was part of efforts to “provide evidence-based data and information for health workers in public and private sectors who have the requisite skills and training necessary to provide safe terminations to reduce preventable deaths”.

He added that while “therapeutic termination of pregnancy” is legal under Lagos law, there are no clear guidelines on proper care for persons who require such services.

“In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly updated the criminal code, providing for abortion to save the life and protect the physical health of the woman. While physical health is covered under the Lagos legal framework, services conforming to the law have not been available in Lagos State health sector,” Ogboye was quoted as saying.

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“This document provides information on relevant laws applicable in Lagos State while providing standards and best practices with regards to legal indications, pre and post procedure care, methods and monitoring.

“I must state here that this document has undergone wide consultation with relevant technical stakeholders within the legal and health service context in the State.”

According to the statement, the permanent secretary said the process for the guidelines began in 2018, and involved the input of stakeholders within Lagos and across the south-west, supported by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Nigeria (SOGON) and the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

Ogboye added that the project on the development of the policy document revolved around inclusive practices on provision of safe abortion services, including the legal implications regarding the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, and supporting women to terminate pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

“To guide the implementation, one of the follow-up recommendations of the project was the adaptation of the National Standards and Guidelines for Safe Termination of Pregnancy within Legal Indications within the Lagos State context,” he said.

“The Federal Ministry of Health had developed and disseminated the national guidelines on safe termination of pregnancy which highlights the compendium of conditions and circumstances under which termination of pregnancy could be instituted.

“The guideline was intended to build the capacity of health professionals to identify pregnancies for which legal termination could be instituted. Marie Stopes International in Nigeria in collaboration with the Population Reference Bureau proposed to support the State government to adapt the document.

“All that hard work has culminated in today’s dissemination of the guidelines. We hope this dissemination today will help guide health providers to provide this service within the ambit of the law.”

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