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 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.
Presenting and launching the document at a stakeholders’ engagement, the permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye noted that the production of the policy document was borne out of the need 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.
Ogboye explained that while therapeutic termination of pregnancy is permissible under the law in Lagos State, absence of clear guidelines has stalled the effective implementation at appropriate levels of care resulting in preventable deaths.
In his words: “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.
“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”.
Ogboye explained that the process to develop the guidelines commenced in 2018 with the Safe Engage project led by the Lagos Ministry of Health and hosted by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Nigeria (SOGON), with support from Population Reference Bureau (PRB), adding that stakeholders in the Stater health sector worked with key opinion leaders in Lagos and the southwest region to develop a tailored advocacy tool for terminations within the legal context.
He pointed out that the advocacy messages on the Safe Engage project focused on two immediate outcome including ensuring that safe abortion services were available within legal indications in Lagos and domesticating the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, supporting women to terminate a pregnancy caused by rape or incest.
He said: “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.
‘’ 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.’’