The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has directed the suspension of the state’s guidelines on safe termination of pregnancy.
The release of the state guidelines on abortion on June 28 had generated lots of heated debates and controversies, with religious bodies calling for its withdrawal.
But the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, in a statement on Thursday in Lagos, noted that the guidelines had generated immense public interest which necessitated escalating it to the governor.
He said that the governor advised further sensitisation of the public and key stakeholders to ensure a clearer understanding of the objectives of the guidelines.
Abayomi said, “To this end, we are suspending the implementation of these guidelines in the meantime for the Executive Council to deliberate on this matter and ensure adequate public sensitisation and stakeholder engagement to reach a consensus required for a successful guideline development.”
According to him, the ministry was seeking different methods to eliminate illegal abortions and ensure that a mother does not die at childbirth, thereby disrupting an entire family unit.
The commissioner said that illegal abortions and high risk pregnancies leading to unresolvable complications rank high among the several factors that contribute to maternal mortality.
“In this regard, it became imperative to examine, in keeping with existing National and State laws and policies, if there are indeed justifications and medical reasons to offer abortion to a woman whose life is threatened by a pregnancy,” he said.
He noted that following this, the guideline was developed over four years through painstaking work by experts in Law, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Abayomi noted that the guidelines focus was on creating the opportunity to reduce maternal mortality in line with existing laws.
He said that the ministry remains committed to planning, devising and implementing policies that promote qualitative, affordable, and equitable healthcare services to the citizens.
The 40-page document titled, “Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications,” was issued by the ministry’s Directorate of Family Health and Nutrition.
The document released on June 28 sets out guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy within the ambit of the criminal law of Lagos State.
Dr Olusegun Ogboye, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, at launch of the document, said that the document would provide evidence-based data and information for health workers in public and private sectors with requisite skills to provide safe termination of pregnancy to reduce preventable deaths.
Ogboye said that while therapeutic termination of pregnancy was permissible under the state’s law, absence of clear guidelines had stalled the effective implementation at appropriate levels of care resulting in preventable deaths.