Things to know about abortion in Liberia

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A small country on the Western African coast, the Republic of Liberia is a country where access to women’s reproductive wellbeing remains under-researched, under-developed, and under-supported as a result of legislation, social stigma, and lack of international acknowledgement alike.

Abortion Laws in Liberia – Abortion in Liberia is punishable with up to 3 years in prison, unless:

It is done to save the life of the woman; to preserve physical and/or mental health; in the case of rape or incest; and if there is fetal impairment. Abortion is not allowed for economic or social reasons or on request. In instances of threat to the mother or the fetus, written justification for abortion by at least two medical practitioners needs to be produced at the hospital where the procedure is being sought. In cases of rape or incest, police and legal investigations are required before an abortion is permitted.

Getting an abortion is commonly referred to as “Spoiling the Belly” in Liberia – implying a moral failure on part of the woman. This is only a tip of the iceberg of social stigma surrounding the subject. Naturally, it is incredibly difficult to find two practitioners who would be willing to partake in or justify a procedure so tainted and dishonourable. Police investigations take time, and do not tend to be friendly or favourable to the pregnant woman. Moreover, the legal route to fit abortion criteria requires financial capacity – something most people, let alone women, do not possess in abundance in Liberia.

As a result, innumerable desperate women every month take matters into their own hands, or put them in the untrained hands of often exploitative back-alley providers. Herbs, avocado, chalk, knives, sharp bones, spectrums – the list of unsafe means of abortion in Liberia is endless. The country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world – a whopping 1,702 deaths per 100,000 births in 2017, as per the UN.

But these women are not expendable, and it is beyond unfair to treat them like it. A recent 2022 bill intended to significantly increase access to abortion seems to be a step in the right direction.

“We want abortion to stop being a criminal offence, we want to amend the penal code to legalise abortion,” the chair of the Senate Health Committee, Augustine Chea, who initiated the bill, told parliament in early June. As the US closes its safe doors to abortion access, it is imperative that the third world take concrete legislative action to protect the reproductive rights and safety of its women.

As Frederica Mathhews-Green puts it:

“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

As of 2022, any woman seeking the termination of an unwanted pregnancy in Liberia needs to be equipped with accurate information to do so. We at HowtoUse hope that this article is a credible source for the same.

Where can you get an abortion in Liberia?

If you fit the legal requirements and are eligible for an abortion, you can get one at large public hospitals, private clinics, and select NGOs. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) works extensively in Liberia to provide emergency obstetric care and adolescent-friendly reproductive healthcare. You could reach out to one of their providers, or walk into one of their mobile clinics and expect safe advice and care. While private clinics are also effective, it is recommended to do your own research on post-abortion care including medicines, dosages, best practices, etc.

What kind of abortion services are available?

Liberia provides both medical as well as surgical abortion services. For medical abortion, a combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol is used, with Misoprostol still being the more common one. Surgical procedure available is Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA), which uses a vacuum source to remove an embryo or fetus through the cervix. Post abortion care is legal and available in public and private hospitals in Liberia, so it is highly recommended to actively seek out the best care possible.

What kind of abortion pills are available and how to access them?

  • Misoprostol is available under the brand names Misofem, Misoclear, and C-stol.
  • A combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol is available under brand names of Mariprist and MM Combi-kit.

A prescription is mandatory to purchase these pills, and you can buy them at any pharmacy, clinic, or public hospital for $10- $15.

One can only hope that the deep stigmatization around abortion is eventually replaced with facts, information, and the knowledge and understanding that abortion is normal. Abortion is common. Abortion is one of many reproductive outcomes that women across the world are very likely to deal with.

With this proposed 2022 legalisation bill, we can only hope that societal response is slowly but surely positive, and more and more women are given their due – the access to safe, skilled, legal, affordable, accessible, confidential, compassionate and dignified abortion – their fundamental right to reproductive justice.

 

Author Bio:

Michell Mor, eHealth Content Specialist at Women First Digital, an organization helping women about contraception and sexual health.

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