As a proud African that loves tradition and the cultural values that make us unique in the global village, one aspect of our life that I have come to admire so much is the sacredness that we attach to life. The coming of a new born in Africa and especially in my community is seen as the most significant symbolism that signposts the arrival of life. A new born gives us the assurance of hope that humanity is not about to be wiped out and that the best way to sustain the human society is to teach the younger generations the beauty of respecting and according life that sacred position that would make it absolutely unacceptable for human beings to take away life.
It was therefore natural for me to comprehensively understand and accept the scholarly and scientifically based presentation that was beautiful made recently by the Think Tank Committee of Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria in Abuja in which the Catholic Church in Nigeria through a formidable team of theologians made up of Bishops Dunia of Auchi Diocese and Ansalem Umoren of the Archdiocese of Abuja reemphasizes her strident opposition to the clamour for the legalization of abortion through the unprecedented campaign for what some theorists call reproductive and/or sexuality right.
Supporters of this strange teaching of legalization of abortion right have gone to the extent of driving their ideology of campaigning for the National Assembly of Nigeria to pass a health bill that have obnoxious provisions that make it possible for a prospective mother to exercise the 'right' to determine whether her unborn child should be aborted or not as if the unborn child has only become a mere object that can be discarded at the whims and caprices of the would-be mother. Where has our humanity gone to? How come that we have gone this far in our quest to promote the selfish ideology of reproductive and/or sexuality right as if the human right of the unborn child to be born is not much more imperative and inalienable. If we were aborted before birth would we be around nowto rule the World?
I have therefore decided to relay the message of the Catholic Church in which they rightly oppose any move to legislate in support of abortion right that would consign the human right of the unborn child to the whims and caprices of some mean health practitioners who take delight in terminating the precious lives of these beautiful gifts of God who can not speak for themselves.
According to the Catholic Church, Nigerians love children as precious gifts from God. Similarly, being a mother is a blessing. But Nigerian women - our mothers, wives and sisters should not continue to die in the noble and joyful duty of bringing forth new lives - the younger members of our families and communities.
Because pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not articles to be discarded or burdens to be off loaded along the bush paths. In the 21st century, pregnancy and child birth should not result to loss of lives – not of the mother, not of the baby.
Based on the premise of the foregoing, and the unalienable dignity of every human person (babies in the womb, the sick, the aged, everyone) and the respect due to them, the Catholic Church has customarily provided health care services wherever it carries out her missionary work. In Nigeria, health education and clinical services form integral components of the Church's services which are made accessible to everyone in need.
In recent times, however, the Church is aware of the increased flurry of activities in different spheres and by many agencies of government and foreign organizations to achieve various objectives under the pretext of providing health care or reproductive health services to our citizens. Regrettably, Nigerians have been forced by poverty, illiteracy and corruption to grope for the basic necessities of life, leaving no opportunity to scrutinize the specious interests underpinning the health and population control interventions going on across the country.
The Catholic Church delved into scientific research when it noted that the death of a woman in the process of bearing children (pregnancy and child delivery) is a human tragedy, any day. But research and practical evidence show over and again that 91% (9 out of every 10) death of women during pregnancy and child birth are due to causes which are preventable (bleeding – 35%, high blood pressure – 18%, difficult labour – 18%, malaria – 11%, infections – 8%). Thus women die not because of pregnancy, but as a result of the absence of the right personnel, right equipment, right infrastructure, right community preparedness and right support to assure the best outcomes.
On the other hand, abortion which is the intentional killing (termination) of the life of an unborn baby in its mother's womb accounts for about 9% (1 out of 10) of maternal deaths.
Therefore, given the relative burden of the causes of maternal deaths, the question is loudly being asked; why are the so-called development partners forcing Nigeria to focus on abortion as the panacea for curtailing the scourge of maternal mortality in our communities? The focus for me should be on how to provide sound health services to the Nigerian family rather than Government of Nigeria shying away from carrying out her constitutional duty of building functional health infrastructure to provide quality and sound healthcare services for all citizens. The people of Nigeria are the rightful owners of the nation's sovereignty and it is from the people that the officials of government derive their legitimacy and authority. Why then is the government failing to deliver quality healthcare services to the citizenry but would be quick to accept the offer from foreign jurisdictions of certain medical services that would only encourage the spread of abortion and the termination of the lives of our unborn children?
Medical experts and public health practitioners rightly insist that 91% of cases of women dying during pregnancy and child birth can be prevented through the provision of easily-accessible blood transfusion services, skilled midwives during child delivery, malaria treatment, control of high blood pressure and infections. Other sectors such as transportation, clean water and electricity are also critical for reducing the scourge.
A well functional primary health care system with referral pathways is the basic ingredient towards this goal. In practice, the government can leverage on the backbone of the extensive presence of Catholic health service networks across the country to ensure that no woman suffers death or disability because of pregnancy-related conditions.
As stated by the Catholic Church in Nigeria I think young people need adequate information and guidance on how best to live out their sexuality in a healthy, Godly manner through character education, self-mastery and pre-marital sexual abstinence. But what they receive from the media, government agencies and many NGOs is categorical encouragement to engage in illicit sexual escapades through the promotion and use of condoms and other contraceptives. The sad results are obvious everywhere: abysmal level of social morality, promiscuity, diseases, unfulfilled life ambitions, family dislocations and premature deaths of many young Nigerians. Religious and community leaders should play the good roles of preaching the preservation of lives as the way forward to preserve our cheerished African traditional value system that sees life as sacred and sacrosanct.
+Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.