Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Friday announced that the presidential cabinet had approved a bill decriminalizing abortion. The bill would overturn a law that has prohibited abortion since 1861. The president announced:
At a time when sexual and reproductive health rights for women are either being overturned or threatened, we are proud that Sierra Leon can once again lead with progressive reforms. My Government has unanimously approved a Safe Motherhood bill that will include a range of critical provisions to ensure health and dignity of all girls and women of reproductive age in this country.
Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. In 2016, after the parliament adopted a law on safe abortion, the then-president refused to sign it.
To combat maternal mortality, President Maada Bio’s administration has worked to advance women’s reproductive rights by running campaigns for sexual education, menstrual hygiene, and now abortion access.
President Maada Bio made his announcement at the close of Sierra Leone’s 10th annual African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights. Governments, including 90 delegates from 41 African countries, were present at the conference. Other attendees included activists, UN agencies and citizens. The goal of the conference was to build understanding to end violence against women and girls.
The parliament will now discuss the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Bill and vote on it.