As US destroys reproductive rights, Sierra Leone moves to decriminalize abortion

As Supreme of the United States Republican-controlled state courts and legislatures to cancel the constitutional right to abortion in the United States, Sierra Leone on Friday joined the growing list of African nations that have taken steps to protect the health and rights of pregnant women by decriminalizing the medical procedure.

“At a time in the world where women’s sexual and reproductive health rights are either being reversed or threatened, we are proud that Sierra Leone can once again lead progressive reform,” said Julius Maada Bio, President of the west african nation, said during his closing remarks at the 10th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights in the capital Freetown.

“My government has unanimously approved a Safe Motherhood Bill which will include a series of essential provisions to ensure the health and dignity of all girls and women of childbearing age in this country,” he said. -he adds.

The Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Act has been approved by Bio’s cabinet and will now go to the national parliament for approval. If passed, the measure will reverse a strict ban on abortions from when the country was a British colony and help reduce the maternal mortality rate, which is currently the highest in the world.

“Safe and Legal Abortion Saves Lives,” New York-based intersectional feminist group Fòs Feminista tweeted in response to Sierra Leone’s decision.

“Unsafe abortion contributes to the high maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone,” the group added. “One in 20 women dies from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth, making Sierra Leone the third most dangerous place in the world to get pregnant.”

Fadekemi Akinfaderin, Global Advocacy Co-Director of Fòs Feminista, said in a statement that “as we see the United States backsliding in protecting the sexual and reproductive rights of its citizens, feminist movements in the South, including here in Sierra Leone, are decriminalizing abortion and advancing justice by matters of gender and reproduction”.

“I hope today’s announcement gives activists in the United States, and especially black women given our shared history, restored faith that change is possible and that progress can be made. “, she added.

As women face permanent challenges in Sierra Leone – including gender-based violence, persistent inequalitydiscrimination and genital mutilation – the country now joins African nations of Benin, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Tunisia, South Africa and Zambia in legalizing or decriminalize abortion.

Giselle Carino, Executive Director and CEO of Fòs Feminista said Sierra Leone’s progress “demonstrates the raw strength of global feminist movements”.

“Despite recent setbacks in the United States, feminist movements are stronger than ever and ready to persevere in the global struggle for democracy and reproductive justice,” she said.

“We are mindful that this victory comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it. Roe vs. Wade“, Carino continued. “We recognize the global impact of U.S. policies and funding in setting a global agenda and shaping policies far beyond its borders – the Global Gag Rule is a clear example of what it looks like.”

“Nevertheless, those who are determined to advance reproductive justice will never waver,” Carino added, “not in the face of failing US leadership, and, as we saw in Sierra Leone, not in the face of the interrelated issues colonialism, racism and harmful practices against women.

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