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Tuesday, June 29, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK


Maternal deaths take heavy toll in Nigeria

Nigeria has one of the highest maternal deaths rates in West Africa

By BBC Lagos correspondent Barnaby Phillips

Some of the highest maternal death rates in the world are in West Africa. One reason for this is the dangers associated with abortion.

World Population
Experts estimate that abortion is now the cause of one in eight maternal deaths in the overall West African region, but in Nigeria the proportion of deaths caused by abortion is far higher.

Accurate statistics are a rare commodity in Nigeria, but a new study by American and Nigerian researchers concludes that over 600,000 abortions take place in this country each year.

Taken as a proportion of women of reproductive age, this is actually a higher abortion rate than that of the United States and many countries in Europe.

Back-street abortions

What is remarkable about this is that abortion is illegal in Nigeria - except in those exceptional circumstances where it is necessary to save a woman's life. But the law is widely ignored.


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Those women with money arrange safe abortions with doctors, but the majority are not so lucky.

They are forced to have abortions wherever they can afford them, often with quacks masquerading as experts.

Dr Boniface Oyo-Aden-iran, a member of the Nigerian Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy, says the results of these back-street abortions are often disastrous.

The Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy says most Nigerians want the law on abortion changed.

If the law were liberalised, so the argument goes, more Nigerian women would be able to have legal, and hence, safer abortions.

But the Campaign's research also indicates that most Nigerian women want to have more control over how many children they have, and when they have them.

The high rate of abortion is not only dangerous in itself - it is also symptomatic of what little access Nigerian women have to family planning information and services.



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