…..Rebuke the Swedish embassy and others for supporting organizations that advocate for the legalization of abortion in the country.
Members of Liberia’s Religious Council have strongly criticized the Swedish Embassy and others for supporting organizations that advocate for “the legalization of abortion in the country.”
The Swedish embassy, along with several international organizations, has been actively promoting the legalization of abortion by supporting local pro-choice activists and funding campaigns that aim to change the existing laws on abortion in Liberia.
The actions of the Swedish government and others, according to the Council, which represents various religious denominations in the country, are a direct attack on the deeply-rooted cultural and religious values of the country. They characterized the support for making abortion legal as an imposition of Western values.
“It is widely known that the government of Sweden, for example, has been a major player in this push for abortion to be legalized here, but we are Liberians, not Swedish. Legalizing abortion is an attack on mothers, unborn children, and society as a whole. We, therefore, call for the complete withdrawal of the abortion provision in public health,” Rev. Gabriel Jubwe noted.
Abortion in Liberia is illegal as per the current law and, on the moral front, by the majority of Liberians who identify as Christians and Muslims. Both religions consider the act a sin.
Abortion is prohibited in all forms but with a few exceptional cases, such as when the life or health of the mother is at risk. The laws are in line with the views of many religious leaders and are reflective of the predominant ethical and cultural values within the country.
But, the Senate, which is nearing recess, is currently debating an abortion amendment to the Public Health Law after coming under intense pressure from the Amplifying Rights Network, a coalition of ten civil society organizations in the field of sexual reproductive health and rights, which has been lobbying for the decriminalization of abortion.
The Senate decision comes a few months after the Clinton Health Access Initiative and partners, in a research report, claimed that more than 38,000 illegal abortions were performed in 2021 alone.
The number would be higher as more cases of abortion in Liberia go unreported, says the report, which was founded exclusively by organizations that lobby for abortion rights.
Proponents of abortion legalization argue that it is necessary for women's reproductive rights and to reduce maternal mortality rates in the country.
Advocates argue that criminalizing abortion does not stop women from seeking it, but rather puts their lives at risk. They believe that legalizing and regulating abortion services would provide safe and accessible options for women in need.
However, religious leaders and critics disagreed and argued that legalizing abortion would undermine the sanctity of life and contradict religious teachings.
A key concern for many religious leaders is the focus solely on the perceived benefits without fully considering the social and moral implications.
In their view, the emphasis should be on comprehensive sexual education, and improving healthcare services to combat maternal mortality rates, not abortion.
“If Liberia should legalize abortion, the candidate should make it clear in the upcoming election and let the people decide,” says Jubwe. “It should not be done in an unhandled way prior to the election at the call of foreign governments and NGOs.
According to Jubwe, the religious community will ensure that voters are aware of how the legislature has voted on the abortion law.
Jubwe noted that if the legislators gave the go-ahead to legalize abortion, they would undermine the traditional values of Liberian society.
They stress that the religious and cultural practices of the nation have long been centered around the preservation of life and the protection of the vulnerable, including the unborn.
The debate would continue, with strong arguments being presented from both sides.
While pro-choice activists argue for women's reproductive rights and the need to provide safe and legal options for women facing unwanted pregnancies, religious leaders, backed by cultural values, emphasize the importance of protecting innocent lives and preserving traditional norms within society.