Sunkanmi, Mustapha Sodiq (2019-12)


Nigerian laws, including Islamic Law applicable in Nigeria, prohibit (indiscriminate) termination of pregnancy; save therapeutic abortion when the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. Yet, the abortion rate remains alarmingly high in Nigeria. The data on therapeutic abortion is virtually non-existent or unreliable. The laws are, however, silent on conditions that endanger the life of the pregnant woman. This has prompted the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health to formulate guidelines for safe termination of pregnancy. Therapeutic abortion may be necessitated by many conditions, including Congenital Anomalies. These are general foetal defects, the occurrence of which may bemajor causes of infant mortality in the world. Their severity createsunbearable hardship for the victims, their families and caregivers. If diagnosed during pregnancy, the laws are silent about the step(s) to be taken should abortion be called for to relieve the situation of the pregnant woman. However, the guidelines set out by the Federal Ministry of Health covers situations involving “Severe Congenital Anomalies”. The dire overall situations caused by these distressful conditions provoke the question: can the extant laws not be more explicit in recognizing them as valid grounds for abortion? Relying on doctrinal/analytical methodology, the paper observes that Nigerian laws, including the codified (Islamic) Penal Law, do not make adequate provisions to cater for Congenital Anomalies as exculpating grounds for abortion, and concludes that there are justifiable reasons to include these distressful conditions as specific exceptions to the prohibition against (indiscriminate) abortion.