By Patrick B. Craine

OWERRI, Nigeria, June 1, 2009 ( – The legislature of Imo State, Nigeria voted 13-1 on June 1 against a bill that would have made abortion legal in the pro-life state. The rejection of the Reproductive Rights Bill was called “a victory of the superior Imo cultural values over the new global Western Cultural Revolution,” by the Nigerian newspaper This Day.

Nigeria has long resisted pressure to liberalize its social policies. In April 2007, reported, in an article about the African Health Ministers’ vote to work towards legalizing abortion throughout the continent, that Nigeria has voiced strong opposition to this push for legal abortion. Dr. Philip Njemanze, chairman of the Nigerian African Anti-Abortion Coalition, had accused some international organizations at the time of promoting abortion, and thereby of violating the Nigerian Constitution.

In the case of the recent bill, one of the strongest sponsors of the effort to legalize abortion was the American organization, International Project Assistance Services, a prominent global abortion-lobbying group. According to This Day, Ipas and Dr. Orji have been distributing handheld abortion devices in the country for three years. IPAS’s Nigerian representative, Dr. Ejike Orji, had declared that the pro-abortion bill would easily be passed by the House.

According to This Day, thousands of demonstrators from all walks of life, from school children, to community leaders, to Catholic priests and religious sisters, showed up to proclaim the dignity of life outside the legislative building. All the seats in the hearing room were filled by 7:00 a.m., though the public hearing was not to commence until noon. The demonstrators carried placards with slogans like “Reproductive right is abortion,” “Imo mothers love children,” and “I am a child not a choice.” 

The bill claimed to deal with women’s reproductive health, but, in fact, if passed, it would have made abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy. The most anti-life section of the bill said, in part: “The choice of the woman shall be paramount on matters of (a) control of fertility (b) Timing, number and spacing of their children (c) Choice of methods of fertility control and family planning. The Health of the woman shall be paramount to all considerations of reproductive right.”

The extremely broad language of the bill would have opened up the law to on abortion on demand.

The only group to support the bill at the hearing on June 1st was the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), who asserted that it would liberate women from dissemination and oppression. After the hearing, however, some of the women present with NCWS confessed that they had been hired to come to the hearing, and that they regretted their involvement.

This Day calls the bill’s defeat a “triumph.” “The defeat of Imo abortion Bill last Monday is yet another triumph of reason,” they say.  “It is also a triumph of democracy and the popular will. In a democracy like ours sovereignty belongs and the people ought to wield that sovereignty from time to time in way that favours them [sic].”

See related coverage:

World Bank Urging Pro-Abortion Curriculum in Nigeria

African Health Ministers Vote to Approve Protocol to Legalize Abortion Throughout Continent