Mohamed Kanneh Program Coordinator at the West African Youth Network and Debate Coach
Following the current debates with keen interest on the Safe Abortion bill that was recently passed in parliament, what still keeps impenetrable to me is the reason why religious leaders should serve as an impediment for the Bill to become a law.
In this piece, I shall attempt to transliterate relevant provision(s) in the Holy Quran for my readers since it’s one of the Holy Books that’s difficult to understand by English readers.
Sierra Leone is a circular state and I am afraid for religious people not to cause problem in the near future. What has religious leaders got to do with Safe Abortion Bill? I always ask myself! And have we not ever heard about religious leaders who send their daughters overseas to do abortion for fear of what their followers will say? God says Hypocrisy is forbidden!
Right now, if we start talking about placing condoms in mosques and Churches a lot of people will be dissatisfied and object. But in my opinion, just give it a try; I think they will get disappeared. I have the opinion that not all religious leaders are against the Safe Abortion Bill.
Going through the religious books, I have not seen where the Holy Bible talks about abortion, but it does say when a human being’s life begins.
Genesis 2:7 is clearest. The first human became a “living being” (nefesh hayah, “a living breath”) when God blew into its nostrils and it started to breathe. Human life begins when you start breathing. It ends when you stop. That’s why the Hebrew word often translated “spirit” (ruah) — “life force” might be a better translation — literally means “wind” or “breath.”
The Holy Quran on the other hand is silence about abortion but it thus provides the following:
“Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin. (The Noble Quran, 17:31)”
“Say: “Come, I will rehearse what God hath (really) prohibited you from”: Join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want;- We provide sustenance for you and for them;- come not nigh to shameful deeds. Whether open or secret; take not life, which God hath made sacred, EXCEPT BY WAY OF JUSTICE AND LAW: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom. (The Noble Quran, 6:151)”
“O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of fealty to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with God, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter,- then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to God for the forgiveness (of their sins): for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (The Noble Quran, 60:12)”
Before these Noble Verses were revealed, the pagan Arabs (before Islam) used to literally bury their daughters at the age of 4 or less alive in the desert, because:
(1) Daughters’ birth brought shame to the family, and the mother had “defied” the husband’s demand to bear him a son; or
(2) The family was so poor that the parents would fear that someday they would have to sell their children as slaves to others.
While abortion clinics did not exist 1500 or more years ago, but people as it is apparent today were able to cause a woman to miscarry her child by either striking her in the tummy, causing her to have lots of fear, or mess with the vagina until the child is pulled out.
While the Noble Verses above are talking about all children in general, and Noble Verse 17:31 says that it is a great sin, we have to further investigate what the word “children” here includes. Does it include only the newly born children, or does it also include the foetus?
Hadiths claim that after the first 120 days of the Foetus formation, Allah Almighty blows from His Spirit into it (Similar also the Biblical version Genesis 2:7).
Are we really talking about a life? At what point does a life begin? Is terminating a fetus, which can neither feel nor think and is not conscious of its own “existence,” really commensurate with the killing of a person? If you affirm that human life is a quality independent of, and prior to, thought and feeling, you leave yourself the awkward task of explaining what truly “human” is.
Women should have control over their own bodies – they have to carry the child during pregnancy and undergo childbirth. No one else carries the child for her; it will be her responsibility alone, and thus she should have the sole right to decide. If a woman does not want to go through the full nine months and subsequent birth, then she should have the right to choose not to do so. There are few – if any – other cases where something with such profound consequences is forced upon a human being against her own will. To appeal to child’s right to life is circular – whether a fetus has right or not, or can really be called a “child”, is exactly what is at issue. Everyone agrees that children have rights and shouldn’t be killed. Not everyone agrees that fetuses of two, four, eight, or even eighteen weeks are children.
If terminating a fetus is killing can we say all human beings that use condoms are kidnappers?
Not only is banning abortion a problem in theory, offending against a woman’s right to choose, it is also a practical problem. A ban would not stop abortion but would drive it once again underground and into conditions where the health and safety of the woman are almost certainly at risk. Women would circumvent the ban by travelling to countries where abortion is legal. Either the country would have to take draconian measure of restricting freedom of movement, or it would have to admit that its law in unworkable in practice and abolish it.
In my opinion, morally, the people who the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone should have had consultation with before assenting or sending the Bill back to Parliament are women who had aborted before. Not religious leaders! What if a certain group or tribesmen come up with their own position(s) on this? What will happen?
Where were religious leaders when we (Sierra Leone) as a country signed the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa referred to as the Maputo Protocol? Have they looked at Article 14(2)(c) of the aforementioned protocol?
I am not a legal man but all I know is that our Colonial Masters has repealed their Offences Against the Person’s Act of 1861 with the Sexual Offences Act of 2003. Now that we (Sierra Leone) also have The Sexual Offences Act, No. 12 of 2012 what does this mean?
In conclusion, with my critical lenses, there are only two things to do now with the said Bill and these are:
1. Parliament to veto it to become a law after time for Presidential Assent may have elapsed or
2. Religious leaders to mound serious pressure on their followers in parliament to go against what they have earlier voted in two-third majority. But I leave this with the conscience of the law makers who have never aborted or aided in abortion.
Jesus said in John 8:7 “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
©Mohamed Kwak-English Kanneh