By Jariatu S. Bangura
The Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone yesterday averred that the Safe Abortion Bill, which was hastily passed in Parliament few weeks ago but failed to secure the assent of the president, would not only set a bad precedent but would undermine very important religious and cultural values for generations yet unborn.
While reading a resolution prepared by the joint Christian and Muslim faith leaders to Members of Parliament at Committee Room 1, Chief Convener Bishop Archibald Cole said an inter-faith summit conducted by faith leaders on 21January this year on the issue reached the conclusion that from medical, religious, legal and gender perspectives, the bill was highly contested both for its existential import as a law and its potential to set a bad precedent.
He maintained that although the proposed bill claims to reduce maternal mortality and promote reproductive health rights of women, very salient questions still remain unanswered.
He questioned, for example, how safe is safe abortion, the structures put in place and efforts being made to train the requisite medical personnel to handle safe abortion successfully in the country.
“Who defends the right of the unborn child and what mechanisms have been put in place to monitor the practice?” he queried.
He further questioned the future of international protocols that undermine fundamental, cultural and religious values, noting that as all the above questions remain unanswered, it was clear that “the bill is controversial, problematic and shows many signs of poor or inadequate consultation” before it was drafted.
He said that because the bill has drawn great concern from all facets of society, it should be deliberated on by all for the good of all, noting that among many reasons advanced for the endorsement of the bill are the promotion of the reproductive health rights of women and the reduction of maternal mortality in the country.
“Women have the backing of the law to commit abortion when pregnancy is as a result of incest, rape and in the case of serious medical reasons that endanger the lives of both the mother and the unborn baby. We the religious leaders support the third reason [serious medical reasons] and we are seriously concerned about the moral and cultural implication of the first two [incest and rape] reasons advanced,” he stated.
He said religion represents the biggest constituency in the country and that it was hard, if not impossible, to meet a Sierra Leonean who does not profess either Christianity or Islam as his religion.
“The religious body of this country is seriously troubled and her conscience is wounded,” he noted. “These are not the best of times as the moral guarantors of this nation feel to be untied in fighting a common cause not only for ourselves but for generations yet unborn. This concern has a name, a place and time. This concern has serious implications for the future of this great land that we love.”
Bishop Cole further pointed out that the Inter-Religious Council was of the view that the Safe Abortion Bill 2015 has flaws both in form and content, and that it undermines fundamental cultural and religious values, promotes a culture of death and makes individual choice and freedom more important than the moral imperative of human conscience.
“We therefore reject the proposition of the bill and ask that it be expunged from Parliament for the good of all citizens of the country,” he urged.
Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Ibrahim R. Bundu, replied that when documents are presented to the House there was need for consultations, thus pleading for time to do so until they hear from them.
Meanwhile, two groups of protesters were camped outside Parliament expressing support or condemnation for the bill. Those in support largely comprise women’s groups, while those against came from religious groups.
Concord Times 28th January 2016