Unsafe abortion is one of the most significant and preventable causes of maternal death and injury in Nigeria, which has one of the world’s highest maternal death rates. Abortion is illegal except to save the life of the woman, and procedures are often inaccessible even for women who meet this requirement—forcing women to seek out clandestine and unsafe procedures. In addition, millions of people have been displaced within Nigeria since 2012 due to the Boko Haram insurgency, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in which women and girls are at even higher risk for sexual violence and unwanted pregnancy—and have little to no access to reproductive health care.
Ipas Nigeria works to increase women’s access to vital reproductive health and family planning services and to ensure that high-quality treatment for complications of unsafe abortion (postabortion care) is available. Ipas Nigeria collaborates with alliances and partners to advocate for laws and policies that address sexual violence—and to develop youth champions for safe, legal abortion. We also train police officers on the abortion law and the consequences of unsafe abortion, which in turn reduces unjustified accusations and arrests of women seeking life-saving reproductive health services and the providers who care for them. At the community level, Ipas Nigeria works to increase knowledge around sexual and reproductive health, reduce abortion stigma, and ensure women know where to seek care for complications of unsafe abortion.
Gender-based violence is a major problem in Nigeria. In a lot of cases, it involves young girls who are raped by people they trust. And if they become pregnant, it fills them with fear and shame. Two or three months may go by without them telling anyone, and they might try to use an unsafe method to end the pregnancy. Information and options could save their lives. For me, that is the motivation for our work in Nigeria to expand access to safe abortion information and services.
—Lucky Palmer, national program manager, Ipas Nigeria