The Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Health has developed a 40-page policy document tagged “Lagos State Guidelines on Safe Termination of Pregnancy for Legal Indications”, The policy document, recently presented and launched by the state’s ministry of health at a stakeholders’ engagement forum, sets out principles to be strictly adhered to for safe termination of pregnancy within the ambit of the criminal law of Lagos State.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr Olusegun Ogboye, at the unveiling of the document stated that the conception of the policy was borne out of the need to provide evidence-based data and information for health workers both in public and private sectors who have the requisite skills and training necessary to provide safe terminations to reduce preventable deaths.
He continued stating that while quality and authentic termination of pregnancy is possibly permissible under the guarding laws of Lagos State, the absence of clear guidelines has stalled the effective implementation at appropriate levels of care resulting in preventable deaths.
In his words: “In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly updated the criminal code, providing for abortion to save the life and protect the physical health of the woman. While physical health is covered under the Lagos legal framework, services conforming to the law have not been available in Lagos State health sector.
“This document provides information on relevant laws applicable in Lagos State while providing standards and best practices with regards to legal indications, pre and post procedure care, methods and monitoring. I must state here that this document has undergone wide consultation with relevant technical stakeholders within the legal and health service context in the State”.
Ogboye emphasised that the intent and procedure to develop the guidelines had long commenced in 2018 with the Safe Engage project led by the Lagos Ministry of Health and hosted by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Nigeria (SOGON), with a strong support from Population Reference Bureau (PRB).
He said: “To guide the implementation, one of the follow up recommendations of the project was the adaptation of the National Standards and Guidelines for Safe Termination of Pregnancy within Legal Indications within the Lagos State context. The Federal Ministry of Health had developed and disseminated the national guidelines on safe termination of pregnancy which highlights the compendium of conditions and circumstances under which termination of pregnancy could be instituted.
“The guideline was intended to build the capacity of health professionals to identify pregnancies for which legal termination could be instituted. Marie Stopes International in Nigeria in collaboration with the Population Reference Bureau proposed to support the State government to adapt the document”.
“All that hand work has culminated in today’s dissemination of the guidelines. We hope this dissemination today will help guide health providers to provide this service within the ambit of the law”, Ogboye stated.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Medical Sciences, Otukpo, Prof. Innocent Ujah, who was one of the consultants that developed the document affirmed that the declaration, arrangement and use of this guidelines will protect the lives of many pregnant women and women whose physical or mental health would be compromised with the continuation of their pregnancies.
He explained that the guidelines provide information on subsisting Nigeria law on termination of pregnancy, Lagos State revised law 2011, a compendium of medical conditions and circumstances where the continuation of pregnancy endangers the women’s life and describes the step-by-step options for ethical and safe medical management.