Last week, after so many months of hopelessness, news broke on the rescue of two hundred and thirty four women and girls from captivity. As a nation, we rejoiced, (even as we hold our breaths that those still remaining will also be returned to us). While we all heard of the 234 rescued on Friday, reports have it that between Tuesday and Friday, around 700 abductees altogether had been rescued.
Fast on the heels of this wonderful victory came further news that was terribly dismaying but if we are to be honest, not shocking. 214 of them were pregnant. While it is upsetting to have our deepest fears actually confirmed, again, it would be disingenuous to say we are shocked because we did not imagine the men carried the women to the forest only to cook for them and play Ludo with them, did we? However, news media thrive on sensationalism so it does not surprise me to hear that of the 214 figure bandied, some of them were actually captured while already pregnant.
UNFP’s executive director, Professor Babatunde Osotimehim was quoted in Vanguard as saying, “Already, many of them are undergoing screening for various diseases, infections including HIV/AIDS and about 214 of those already screened were discovered to be at various stages of pregnancies, some visibly pregnant and some just tested pregnant; but we are supporting all of them with various levels of care to stabilize them.”
Osotimehin added that the latest number of pregnancies add to 16,000 other deliveries the UNFP has handled in the course of rehabilitation of rescued women and children.
These statements, along with some discussions on social media beg the question, what is the place of abortion in this grand rehabilitation scheme?
I know my people, Nigerians, and already, social media is divided along the ‘for and against’ abortion lines.
Now I would assume or imagine that in a situation like this, however die-hard anti-abortion a person may be, common sense alongside sheer empathy would dictate that anyone would support abortion for any of these women who so desires, as part of their rehabilitation. But I am still reeling from calls that insist that abortion not be considered, for reasons ranging from the facts that every life is a gift, however it came to be, abortion is a sin whatever the situation, and all manner of things in between.
While is it easy to say No, abortion is unacceptable, what has happened to these women is equally unacceptable, and while they have all suffered unspeakable terror and trauma, for many of them, their childhood has been snatched from them. Now to insist that not only must they find a way to continue to live despite all this, but that they must have a constant reminder of the horror they have suffered is simply unfair.
Pregnancy, even with a loving supportive partner where conception was pleasurable is still difficult enough. But having to endure pregnancy, when we can imagine that all these women and girls want to do is forget the last few months, and bringing forth unplanned-for children, just because…. I am lost for words, something that does not happen easily with me.
Let me add that while we do not wish it, some of these women would be in poor health, from malnutrition, to physical injury, to emotional turmoil to STD. Needless to say they may not be in any kind of state to be having babies to add to their problems. Some of these babies may be born with congenital conditions. I also hasten to agree that some of the pregnancies may be too far along to terminate. I am not sure how robust this rehabilitation scheme is but I am hoping there is some kind of framework for giving these babies up for adoption, again, if the women so wish.
I suggest that we get off our high horses. If any of these women want to keep the pregnancies, they should get all the support they need, but for any who wish to have them terminated, they should enjoy equally all the support they can get. Let us not in moralizing and grandstanding lose our humanity.
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