ABUJA, Nigeria — Concerns are being raised over a known abortion activist group that is present in Nigeria to offer services to the over 200 women and girls that were recently found to be pregnant after being rescued from the Islamic terror group Boko Haram.
As previously reported, last month, the Nigerian army rescued nearly 700 captured women and children that were found in the Sambisa Forest and near Chalawa Village in Adamawa State. When the women were brought in for medical examinations, it was discovered that over 200 of them were pregnant. While some had already become pregnant by their husbands before their captivity, many others had acknowledged that they had been raped by their captors.
“[T]hey turned me into a sex machine. They took turns to sleep with me. Now, I am pregnant and I cannot identify the father,” Asabe Aliyu, a 23-year-old mother of four, told the Nigerian newspaper the Daily Times.
“Boko Haram insurgents deliberately raped women with the intention of getting them pregnant so they would give birth to future insurgents as successors of their violent struggles, hence the need for a special program to break the chain anticipated by the insurgents,” Isa Gusau, spokesperson for Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, also explained.
“The sect leaders make very conscious efforts to impregnate the women; some of them, I am told, even pray before mating, offering supplications for [Allah] to make the products of what they are about doing become children that will inherit their ideology,” he said.
But concerns are also being raised over the presence of pro-abortion groups in the country, which may be seeking to push abortion for those who have been raped. According to reports, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is among those offering counseling to the women, as well as sending “reproductive health kits” to displacement camps in the nation.
“UNFPA is one of the leading international groups promoting abortion in the developing world,” explained the UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in a statement this week. “SPUC fears that these emotionally vulnerable, malnourished women will be pressured into aborting their babies.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE) told Cosmopolitan that it believes the U.S. and UNFPA should be offering abortions to the women.
“There’s enough international work and policy that has gone into addressing the exact issue we are faced with right now that it should be a no-brainer for international donors like the U.S. government, like UNFPA, to be going into Nigeria and helping these girls access safe abortions—for the ones who want and choose that,” President Serra Sippel.
But SPUC spokesperson Antonia Tully said that aborting the children would only add to the trauma that the women have already faced.
“It is extremely worrying that some of these women may undergo abortions, which could cause them further physical and emotional trauma in their already weakened state,” she said. “The deaths of their unborn babies would add to the toll of lives lost in this tragic situation.”
An anonymous staff member at University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) also told reporters that it would be dangerous to perform abortions on many of the women and girls.
“The situation is evidently dicey. … You cannot terminate advanced pregnancies because in some instances, you will end up killing both baby and mother,” he said.
The Nigerian government is considering how to offer the best care for both the women and their unborn babies, and admits fears that some women may abandon the children simply because their fathers were rapists.
“My major concern is how we, as stakeholders from the federal and state governments, will manage women that might be affected,” Gasau said. “I am seriously worried at the fact that most women tend to hate and abandon children they deliver from rape. Now, the problem is that these children could go to the streets unattended to; they then lack access to food, healthcare and education.”
Gasau referred to the children as being innocent in the tragedy, and spoke of Nigeria’s goal to raise the children to be “future leaders,” suggesting that the government desires to help care for the babies rather than kill them.
“[T]he federal government will have to work with state governments whose citizens are affected, so that we get the involvement of medical and psychosocial specialists as well as child welfare experts so that we deal with the situation by properly, documenting these kids without getting them stigmatized, monitoring and working towards raising these kids to become educated future leaders without the slightest ideologies of their fathers in order for us to cut the cycle being envisaged,” he said.
“We must show love to these innocent children; we should support the innocent mothers. This is equally in our enlightened self-interest,” Gasau stated.
There are approximately 760,000 abortions in Nigeria each year.
Photo: CCTV Africa