Pre-born life is increasingly under attack in Nigeria by pro-abortion organizations—e.g., Marie Stopes International and Planned Parenthood—busy extending their reach into a culture that has always celebrated life in the womb. The good news is that an organized and active pro-life movement is pushing back and gaining momentum. Notably, the third International Pro-life and Pro-family Conference, held by the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province this past April, had nearly 1,500 participants.
Sparking the recent call for abortion aid to Nigeria is the increasing use of sexual violence as a terrorist tactic. Aid agencies and government officials have reported to news outlets that while about 700 girls were rescued from Boko Haram in April, over 200 returned pregnant. One girl told reporters that despite receiving death threats from men in her village, she had decided to keep her baby because she believes her child deserves life. The girl’s mother, who supports her daughter’s decision, said “life is in the hands of God alone.”
In early June, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Center for Health and Gender Equity held a “Faith Leaders’ Summit” near the White House, calling on the Obama administration to pressure countries to lift their abortion bans for women raped by ISIS and Boko Haram. They specifically asked for changes to the Helms Amendment, the federal law that prevents U.S. foreign aid from being used to fund abortions abroad.
Pro-life groups disagree. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, told the Christian Post that women who choose abortion after rape often have a harder time dealing with the effects of “being involved in an abortion, than they do with being victims of rape.” And, he went on, “it’s terrible that abortion advocates are once again exploiting the highly charged issue of rape in order to advance their agenda on an international scale.”
Nigerian pro-life groups such as Culture of Life Africa are also pushing back against the United Nations Population Fund, which has long advocated for the legalization of abortion in Africa. In addition, the British-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has accused the UN of using “counseling” outreach to women and girls raped by Boko Haram as cover for promoting abortion. SPUC also fears that reproductive health kits the UN sends to malnourished and already emotionally vulnerable women in displacement camps are another vehicle for pressuring them to abort their babies.
A spokesperson for the Foundation for African Heritage, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations in Nigeria, argues that the kidnapped women have already suffered “unspeakable trauma and violence at the hands of the Islamic militants” and do not need also to be subjected to “traumatic . . . and life-threatening” abortion procedures. For its part, FACH will provide maternity homes where the girls can give birth, and legal adoption services.
Through laws, culture, organization and advocacy, Nigeria is asserting itself as a pro-life nation. Powerful countries should not use their wealth and influence at the UN to force abortion laws on the rest of the world. Nigerians have a sovereign right to rule themselves, and this principle should be respected.
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Ifeoma Anunkor is a recent graduate of Columbia Law School and lives in New York City.