by Dare Lawal
Not many Nigerians are aware that in Imo State, there is a law called the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill, which among other things gives women the right to have abortions in some instances. The bill was signed into law by the governor on May 29 after the state assembly passed it and sent to him for assent.
However, the Catholic Church kicked against that part of the law. The Catholic Church in Imo has been in the news recently over protests by Catholics in Ahiara Diocese over the appointment of a non-indigene as bishop.
After a two-day Pro-life International Conference organised by the Archdiocese of Owerri, the Catholic Church demanded that the portion that gives a woman right to medical abortion be expunged.
In fact, so influential is the Catholic Church in Imo that the Secretary to the Imo State Government (SSG), Prof. Tony Anwuka,publicly took a position against the law which his boss had signed into law.
The SSG who was actually representing the governor at the event, nonetheless chose to express his personal feeling as a “knight of St. Mulumba of the Catholic Church”. He faulted the inclusion of Section 40 (1) (i), which allows “right to medical abortion” by women who need it in the state.
Here’s what the Imo law says, according to Section 40 (1) (i) of the Imo State of Nigeria 2012 Law 12: “Every woman shall have the right to enjoy reproductive rights, including right to medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and where the continued pregnancy endangers the life or physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of the mother.”
The SSG declared that: “As a Knight of Saint Mulumba of the Catholic Church, I will ensure that this portion of the law is expunged and abrogated soonest.”
“Every person should have the courage to preserve life rather than destroy it; medical doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare givers as well as government should have a rethink because if they have a life, they should think only about how to keep other lives and not how to terminate these at whatever stage.”
Anwuka further commended the National Assembly for their position on same-sex marriage, saying: “For the first time, I felt proud for their collective action to make sure that this new cancer that is eating up the world-same–sex marriage, has to stop before its development in our land.”
According to reports:
The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri and Metropolitan of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, Anthony Obinna, described the law as against human and natural justice, saying “the assent of the law by the governor took the Catholic Church by surprise, but we would do everything possible to protest against it until it is repealed”.
Welcoming delegates to the conference, the cleric said the movement of pro-lifers would not be deterred by the current tide in the world, where everything is being done to ensure women are “forced to accept principles that violate God’s laws of procreation”. He said aside the church’s acceptable methods of natural births, no other artificial method, including the use of contraceptives for family planning is morally approved. “Similarly, the use of stem cells in reproduction is against natural laws,” he added.
Other speakers spoke on why Catholic faithful should not be involved in accepting any form of family planning methods which are against the approved methods, such as billings, Rhythm, Temperature and the recent Natural Procreative Technology (NAPROTECH).