On December 8, 2015, the parliament of Sierra Leone passed The Safe Abortion Act, 2015 which is “an Act to prevent maternal death and injury, safeguard reproductive rights, determine the circumstances and conditions under which pregnancies can be terminated and to provide for other related matters.”
If President Koroma signs this Act, it will replace the English Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 which was previously the law that governed abortion. Under the English Offences Against the Person Act, abortion was only permissible to save the life of a pregnant woman. In addition, anyone who gave consent for an abortion or performed an abortion could be arrested.
The people of Sierra Leone have been suffering from the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world. A press release from Ipas, online here, mentions human rights, public health and economic incentives for the new Safe Abortion Act: “Sierra Leone has signed or ratified almost all international and national treaties and optional protocols that are designed to protect human rights. . . . In 2011, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation partnered with Ipas to conduct three studies examining unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion, revealing that unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion were identified in all regions as a significant problem. The studies—which included assessments of the burden and cost of unsafe abortion—found that the Sierra Leone government spent between $112,000 and $230,000 (USD) each year on personnel and medical supplies to treat post-abortion cases. If the government provided safe abortion, by contrast, the government could save $121,000 (USD).
“In 2012, a number of government leaders and stakeholders visited Ethiopia to study that country’s successful law reform and safe abortion implementation process. The Ethiopian government officials, health-care providers and civil-society leaders stressed the significant benefits of abortion law reform for women’s health and lives, as well as for the health-care system. In voicing their strong commitment to providing safe abortion, doctors, nurses and midwives in particular attested to the positive changes they had seen in Ethiopia after revision of the law. As one doctor noted, ‘We don’t see the tragedy of severe abortion complication and death any more in this hospital, it has become something of the past.'” More details and background are available in the Ipas press release
After “engag[ing] with religious leaders”, the President of Sierra Leone plans to send the Act back to the Parliament for review. Presidential delay. The International Campaign for Safe Abortion, a new coalition of NGOs, is circulating an Ipas petition urging quick passage of the Safe Abortion Act into law: Letter to the President of Sierra Leone.