Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Abortion, with all its added extras, sashays into the politics of Sierra Leone
News - Inside Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is not exactly Dixie, but given the furious pushback against the abortion bill now before Parliament from a religious establishment, both Christian and Moslem, backed by an intensely conservative public, Sierra Leone might as well be one of the states in the Bible Belt of the USA. It is Roe v Wade on the Rokel with politicians, not the courts, tossing the political hot potato from Wansey Hill (site of Sierra Leone's Parliament) down to Fort Thornton (State House) and back.

parliamentAbortion has enjoyed a wink and a nod attitude from Sierra Leoneans for generations. Called "poil belleh" in Krio, gossipy neighbors, friends and family are always in the know when neighborhood young ladies exercise what US liberals might call "freedom of choice" with their bodies. And the presence of abortion providers, untrained medical practitioners in some cases, is quietly acknowledged by the Sierra Leoneans among whom they live and work. But the passing of the Safe Abortion Act 2015 by Parliament that made abortion legal and safe also opened a can of worms that politicians never imagined would threaten to put a stink on their careers.

President Ernest B. Koroma, ever the pol attuned to the direction public opinion is tending, sensed political trouble, refused to sign the bill and punted it right back to the hill where Nova Scotian settler Nathaniel Wansey used to farm in 1794. With the religious establishment putting aside any differences between Islam and Christianity to increase pressure  against the bill, Parliamentarians with no place to hide are getting their hands or other parts of their anatomies best left unmentioned scalded.

Meanwhile, on talk radio and on the streets, Sierra Leoneans are angrily denouncing politicians for even daring to introduce such a law. Would they have been around to contemplate such a law had their own mothers aborted them? some callers asked indignantly.  One caller said Sierra Leone passed the law because she is a signatory to the Maputo Accords, a treaty that guarantees safe and legal abortions. Others said the abortion law was a prelude to the passing of a gay rights bill, another issue that deeply disgusts Sierra Leoneans.

Whatever the outcome, and the prospects are not looking good for the bill, the government could come out of the abortion debate smelling, well, like roses.  Parliamentarians could avoid the wrath of their constituents and the charge heard around Sierra Leone that they represent themselves and not the opinions of voters, by voting down the bill. Fittingly, government spokesmen will sound off about democracy being alive and well in Sierra Leone because the bill was defeated only after much debate.

As for Sierra Leone's pro abortion advocates, the lesson they can draw from the landmark 1973 US law known as Roe v Wade is that next time they should turn to the courts and not the politicians who really cannot take the heat.