— Launches sexual reproductive health and rights on wheels program for Montserrado, Margibi counties
The Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI) has disclosed its willingness to lobby with the National Legislature to legalize abortion in the country in order to save Liberian women and girls.
Naomi Tulay-Solanke, Executive Director of Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), made the disclosure Wednesday, October 7, 2020, at the launch of its Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights program held at Fish Market in Congo Town.
Mrs. Tulay-Solanke said abortion is a human rights issue, and therefore CHI will advocate in ensuring that it is not a crime in Liberia.
“If we don’t have a system in place where women and girls can abort an unwanted pregnancy, we will be encouraging illegal abortion that is already happening now in Liberia,” Mrs. Tulay-Solanke said.
She said the lack of legal status of abortion in Liberia is causing problems as many of those carrying out the abortion on women and girls are not trained to it.
Liberian law does not support abortion. According to chapter 16, section 16.3 of the Penal Law, abortion beyond the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy is illegal. Additionally, abortion is legal only if it occurs after a licensed physician determines there is a substantial risk that continuing the pregnancy would gravely impair the mother’s physical and or mental health.
It also states that an abortion may also be justified if the child would be born with grave physical or mental defects or if the pregnancy was the result of illegal intercourse such as rape.
Mrs. Tulay-Solanke said the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights on wheels program is aimed at ensuring that sexual and reproductive health and rights is accessible to every young woman and girl in the country.
She said the program focuses on seven communities in Montserrado and Margibi counties, stressing that they are working in those communities.
Mrs. Tulay-Solanke said the bus, which also carries an emergency number of 9009 will be moving in the targeted communities to ensure that beneficiaries have access to their package including sex education and family planning.
She indicated that since 2017, Liberia continues to report a high maternal mortality rate, which shows that every 100,000 women that go to give birth, 1072 of them die.
Dr. Yatta Wahpoe, Montserrado County Health Officer who officially launched the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights on wheels program, said reproductive health is a human right issue that allows a woman to decide when to have children.
“This right has been lacking in Liberia healthcare delivery services. We have just begun to run with this right, a right to life and privacy and a right to prevent discrimination and torture as a woman,” Dr. Wahpoe said.
Dr. Wahpoe told the CHI team that engaging the young women and girls within the community will help to educate them during the inception, noting, “We will be able to prevent the death before they even conceive.”
Dr. Wahpoe indicated that Montserrado County accounts for one-third of the maternal mortality rate in Liberia.
“Maternal health is our birth line. It’s one of the most indicators for the Ministry of Health and for any country because the number of women surviving will indicate if the health sector is improving or declining. We strongly believe that the CHI project will help to reduce our maternal mortality rate,” Dr. Wahpoe said.
Lisa W. Klafleh, Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), expressed gratitude to CHI for the initiative that focuses on human rights, especially for women and girls.
Ms. Klafleh who is also involved in educating young women and girls at high school levels said access to sexual reproductive health commodities is a challenge for many young women and girls.
“The education on sexual reproductive health and rights is cardinal, but most importantly, addressing access to the materials needed to be used by young women and girls is laudable by CHI. We are delighted that CHI can provide access and not just education for our young women and girls,” Ms. Klafleh emphasized.
Faith Cooper, Country Director of International Rescue Committee (IRC), promised to continue the partnership with CHI, while praising the initiative of the organization.
Satta F. Saah, a representative of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, pledged the council’s commitment to working with CHI to educate young women and girls.
“We are prepared to work with you in protecting our women and girls. Again, we want you to also include the boys into this program for better results because young people are having sex with no protection. Some even have sicknesses,” Mrs. Saah said.