Liberia: Swedish Embassy Denies Bribing Liberian Senators to Legalize Abortion

Sweden’s Ambassador to Liberia, Urban Sjöström

The Swedish Embassy is denying that it bribed Liberian senators to pass an amendment to the country’s public health law that would legalize abortion, which remains prohibited except in extreme cases.

The Swedish denial comes as it remains one of the leading donors to Amplifying Rights Network, a pro-abortion group, that is spearheading the campaign for the legalization of abortion in Liberia. 

The group, whose push led to the issue of abortion being included in the revised public health law, which Senators are about to vote on as they return from their two-week break, argued that the country’s restrictive abortion laws limit women’s rights and access to safe reproductive healthcare.

But religious groups, including the Inter-Religious Council, disagreed and claimed that the Swedish government’s support for the Amplifying Rights Network “is a direct attack on Liberia’s deeply-rooted cultural and religious values.”

The Council’s call for the bill’s rejection, however, fueled claims that the Swedish Embassy had made substantial financial contributions to senators in exchange for their support of legalizing abortion under the guise of funding various development projects in Liberia.

The allegations have forced the Swedish Embassy to promptly  deny any involvement or role in the abortion debate, even though its support for the Amplifying Rights Network is key to the group’s push for the legalization of abortion.

“The Embassy has noted disinformation about Sweden circulating on social media. These unfounded accusations allude that Sweden has paid Liberian senators to vote in a certain way on the revised Public Health Bill. We want to assure all Liberians that these accusations are completely false,” Swedish Embassy said in a Facebook post yesterday. 

“Sweden is a long-term development partner to Liberia and supports the Liberian government as well as national and international organizations working to improve conditions for democracy and human rights,” it added. “One important aspect of their work is to strengthen women’s full enjoyment of their human rights, not least their sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

According to the Embassy, Sweden “respects the democratic processes of our partner countries and that Swedish development cooperation does not tolerate any form of corruption. 

“We do not give nor accept bribes,” the statement added. “If you have evidence that Swedish government funds [have] been used in an irregular manner you may report.”

The Embassy clarification comes just as  Bishop Kortu Brown,  a leading figure in the anti-abortion movement claimed that the religious community has estimated that the legalization of abortion would lead to the death of 40,000 babies every single year.  This is a conservative estimate, as the actual number could be much higher when the bill is legalized as it would allow abortion on demand.

“This bill would introduce a very big change to our legislation here in Liberia and would directly lead to the death of thousands of innocent babies through abortion in Liberia,” Brown said as he pleads with Liberians to join the religious community in taking action against the bill. 

“Please take action now and contact senators now via and ask them to vote against this horrific bill,” he added. “A change from allowing abortion in exceptional circumstances to allowing abortion on demand would lead to the lives of thousands of innocent babies being lost to abortion in Liberia every single year. This is a low estimate, the actual number could be much higher.”

Under Liberia’s current law, abortion is allowed in exceptional circumstances - where the mother’s life is at risk, rape/incest/felonious intercourse, and disability of the fetus. These are rare situations. 

The Public Health Bill, which the Senate is currently looking at, would scrap Liberia’s current abortion law and replace it "with an extreme law that allows abortion, for any reason, on demand, up to when the baby in the womb is at 14 weeks gestation," Brown said. 

The proposed change comes as most African countries prohibits abortion except in extreme circumstances, such as the life of the mother, rape/incest, and fetal disability. 

Most countries in the world likewise prohibit abortion except in extreme circumstances. Only a minority of countries allow abortion on demand.