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FREE TOWN, Sierra Leone, January 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Hundreds of pro-life Muslim and Christian leaders marched on Sierra Leone's Parliament and met with M.P.s to urge rejection of a law legalizing abortion, encountering violence from opponents.

“Muslims and Christians have been getting together for some time,” the Reverend Sam Luamba of Kingdom Dominion Ministries told LifeSiteNews. “About 450 people of crowded into one room with the parliamentarians. Some had to sit on the floor.” They read a position paper to the M.P.s, who had unanimously passed the Safe Abortion Act legalizing abortion back in December, only to see it sent back for reconsideration by President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The meeting was disrupted by abortion advocates, who got into a shoving match with security personnel.

The Christian clergy and Muslim leaders are members of the Inter Religious Council, whose earlier meeting with Koroma led to his veto. The group met again last week to plan today's event, under the auspices of the Catholic Church.

The bill would permit abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and after that allow for them only in cases of rape, incest, and a risk to the health of the mother. Girls under 18 would need a parent's or guardian's consent.

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The bill was supported by the International Pregnancy Advisory Services, a U.S.-based non-profit that developed a hand-powered vacuum aspiration device to do abortions in the Global South. IPAS argues that Sierra Leone has the world's highest maternal mortality rate and claims that a third of that is caused by illegal, unsafe abortions. The organization has attempted to link the latter to violence against women.

“The evidence is clear. Legal restrictions on abortion only make abortion unsafe, which leads to higher maternal mortality,” says Val Tucker, IPAS's former Sierra Leone operations manager.

But IPAS's claim is disputed. “It's unfortunate that IPAS distorts the numbers and uses this to promote abortion,” Stephen Phelan of  Human Life International said.

Research of Chile's Melisa Institute, led by Elard Koch, has shown from studies in Mexico and Chile that stricter abortion laws correlate positively with lower maternal mortality and less violence against women.