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Technology, e-commerce increasing abortion access in Nigeria- IPAS

In spite of the harsh restrictive abortion law in Nigeria, access to it is changing through technology and e-commerce, IPAS, an international non-profit advocacy group, has said.

The Country Director of IPAS, Mr. Lucky Palmer, made this known at the presentation of the Nigeria Medical Abortion Study, conducted between June 2019 and April 2020.

IPAS focuses on improving and expanding women’s sexual and reproductive rights, made this known in Ibadan on Wednesday.

Palmer said that e-commerce platforms made it possible through technology advancement, which provides an easy way for women to access abortion pills as opposed to in-clinic abortion services.

“Over the last 20 years, technology has advanced and medication abortion also called the abortion pill, has been found to be a safe and efficient way to end a pregnancy.

“The Abortion Law in the country permits abortion only to save a woman’s life, making it restrictive and inaccessible to many women.

“However, abortion pills have become widely available through e-commerce with many women, even taking unlicensed and counterfeit abortion pills.

“The fact that abortion is legally restrictive in the country has not stopped the large number of abortion procedures.

“Over two million abortions occur annually in Nigeria, with many of them categorized as unsafe.

“Many women end up in the hands of quacks or taking pills with some dying in the process, while many are permanently maimed due to unsafe abortion,” he said.

According to him, although, more women can access abortion pills, not many women know its proper administration and dosage, partly because they are afraid to seek advice from qualified medical professionals.

He said that liberalizing abortion law in the country was long overdue, if the country was serious about reducing maternal mortality.

“Abortion pill is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy, but you must use the right medication and dosage. There are many counterfeit abortion pills in the country.

“In Nigeria, there are only about six or seven legally registered abortion pills; however, over 27 brands are available in the country.

“Like many drugs, abortion pill can also be abused and there is also problem with dosage, handling and counterfeits.

“These are factors that affect the efficacy of the drugs and lead to serious complications which can even permanently maim the woman.

“To quote a past President of International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, our women are not dying because of untreatable diseases.

“But, they are dying because society has yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving,” he said.

Also, a Public Health Scientist, Dr. Babatunde Adelekan, presented the result of the study on medication abortion outside the clinic setting, saying abortion pill is safe, effective and simple to administer within first nine weeks of pregnancy.

Adelekan said that abortion pill involves two different medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are used to end a pregnancy.

According to him, both pills can be used together, but misoprostol is more widely available, and can be used alone for safe and effective abortion.

He said that 99 per cent of women involved in the study conducted from June 2019 to April 2020, had a successful abortion with misoprostol alone.

“This contrasts with the published literature on the effectiveness of misoprostol alone which typically cite a success rate of 85 per cent.

“In legally restrictive settings like Nigeria, where a combined regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol is not easily accessible, misoprostol alone remains an important option for women seeking end to a pregnancy.

“The result of study contributes to evidence on the safety of early medication abortion outside of clinics and the effectiveness of misoprostol alone for induced abortion.

“Given the safety and efficacy of medication abortion outside of clinic setting, and Nigerian women’s demonstrated desires to manage their own abortions, abortion pills should be made accessible.

“Abortion restrictions should be reviewed and amended in accordance with the standards established in Africa Women’s Rights Protocol.

“The lives of Nigerian women matter and injuries from unsafe abortion are entirely preventable,” he said. (NAN)

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