11 January 2016


On 8 December, the Parliament of Sierra Leone overwhelmingly passed the Safe Abortion Act 2015 , tabled by ruling party lawmaker Hon. Isatu Kabia. This law replaced a 150-year-old colonial law that made all abortions illegal. The passage of the Safe Abortion Act 2015 is a major victory for women's health and rights. Unfortunately, after pressure from the Inter-Religious Council and a member of the United States Congress, President Koroma felt under pressure and refused to sign the bill into law. Instead, he sent it back to Parliament for reconsideration. This ground-breaking legislation is now in danger of being withdrawn altogether because of lobbying by conservative groups.
At the request of the President, the Parliamentary leadership will be discussing the bill with religious leaders in the coming week and the full Parliament will likely reconsider whether to sign the bill into law or withdraw it completely in the next 2-3 weeks.  We must move quickly to ensure that the President and the Parliament know how important the passage of this legislation is to a wide range of organizations all over the world.

We need your help to demonstrate to President Koroma that the international community supports this legislation because it will save countless women's lives.

We invite you / your organization to join us in supporting the Safe Abortion Act 2015.


To sign please e-mail guthriee@ipas.org with your details - organization, city, country - by Friday evening, 15 January.


8 January 2015

His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma
President of the Republic of Sierra Leone
State House, Freetown

Re:  Urging quick passage of the Safe Abortion Act 2015 into law

Your Excellency, President Koroma,
We, the undersigned, represent a broad range of stakeholders active globally in the field of maternal health, reproductive health and rights, medical care, legal issues and social justice.  We write today to applaud the strong position you took in a speech to Parliament on 11 December 2015 in which you declared maternal and child health to be a National Health Emergency, and to urge quick passage of the Safe Abortion Act 2015 into law. This important bill reaffirms your administration's dedication to improving the health of women and families and is consistent with regional and global trends in abortion law reform. Bringing abortion out of the shadows by making it safe and legal is one of the most direct and effective ways to reduce maternal mortality, and passage of the Safe Abortion Act 2015 is vital to Your Excellency's commitment to save women's lives and improve their health and lives.

Your Excellency, it is well documented that at least 47,000 women die every year from unsafe abortion, almost all of whom are in developing countries, with African women at the highest risk. In Sierra Leone, complications from unsafe abortion account for one in five admissions for obstetric complications in the health system. These complications currently over-burden the fragile health system in Sierra Leone, and moreover, are almost wholly preventable when safe abortion is an option for women.

Your Excellency, by ensuring the Safe Abortion Act 2015 is swiftly signed into law, you would not only be reaffirming your commitment to women's health but also taking decisive action to implement the pledges made by your government to uphold regional and international agreements. In the summer of 2015, Sierra Leone ratified the Women's Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Maputo Protocol), which affirms women's rights to dignity, life, integrity, security of person and reproductive rights. Passage of this bill ensures that Sierra Leone will meet and lead in its commitments to African nations and peoples. Sierra Leone has also pledged before CEDAW and the Committee Against Torture to address unsafe abortion by reforming the current restrictive and punitive abortion law.

We understand that your office is now under pressure to stop this significant advance in women's health.

We urge you to trust instead in the actions of the Honourable Members of Parliament of Sierra Leone who developed and passed this bill, who understand what is best for their constituents. Even as we prepare this letter, abortions are taking place daily in Sierra Leone-but unsafely and in dangerous conditions. Your action to ensure passage of this bill into law will ensure that women in need of this health care service can obtain it safely, without risking their health and lives. Ensuring access to safe and legal abortion saves women's lives, and saving women's lives is the right and moral action to take.

Your Excellency, we urge you to ensure passage of this law without delay, and guarantee your legacy as a leader in Africa - and indeed, the world - in recognizing the direct link between safe abortion and women's health and well-being.