Abortion is a complex and controversial issue in Nigeria due to the limited legal framework regulating abortion. Abortion is generally illegal in Nigeria unless it is performed to save the woman’s life (health wise). The law criminalizes abortion in most cases, including cases of rape, incest, harm to the fetus, or when the woman’s health is at risk.

Despite legal regulations, unsafe abortions occur frequently in Nigeria, posing serious health risks and complications to women. Many women seek out unsafe abortion providers or attempt self-induced abortions, which often result in serious health consequences such as infection, bleeding, and even death. 

Social and Cultural Factors

  • Stigma: There is a significant stigma associated with abortion in Nigeria, influenced by cultural, religious, and societal norms. This stigma can deter women from seeking safe abortion services.
  • Education and Awareness: Comprehensive sexual education is limited, leading to a lack of awareness about reproductive health and rights. Enhancing education and awareness is crucial for informed decision-making.

The high rate of unsafe abortion in Nigeria is due to a number of factors, including lack of access to safe and legal abortion services, social stigma surrounding abortion, lack of awareness about reproductive rights, and insufficient sexual and reproductive health education.

 Efforts to increase access to safe abortion services and comprehensive reproductive health care in Nigeria include advocating for legal reform, increasing the availability of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies and promoting inclusiveness. It includes education and training of health care providers to provide safe abortion services to provide legal services. Regulations.

 It is important to remove barriers to safe access to abortion in Nigeria to protect women’s health and rights and reduce the high maternal mortality rates associated with unsafe abortion practices.


Abortion is an important part of public health because it helps ensure individuals have access to safe and legal reproductive health services.

1. Preventing unsafe abortions: When abortion services are limited or unavailable, women may resort to unsafe methods to terminate pregnancies, which can lead to serious health complications and death. Legal and safe abortion services can help prevent this dangerous practice and protect the health and well-being of individuals. 

2. Promoting reproductive rights: Access to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental reproductive right that gives individuals control over their bodies and reproductive health. Ensuring that abortion services are available and accessible helps protect these rights and empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. 

3. Reducing maternal mortality: Unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. By providing access to safe and legal abortion services, governments can prevent unnecessary deaths and complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

4. Improving women’s health: Unintended pregnancies can have a negative impact on a woman’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Access to abortion services allows women to better plan and manages their pregnancies, thereby improving their health and that of their families.

5. Eliminate disparities in access to health care: Marginalized and underserved populations often face barriers in accessing reproductive health services, including abortion. Ensuring equitable access to abortion services can help eliminate disparities in health outcomes and promote health equity for all.

Legal Status of Abortion in Nigeria

  • Criminalization: Abortion is generally illegal in Nigeria except to save the life of the mother. The primary legal frameworks are the Penal Code (applicable in Northern Nigeria) and the Criminal Code (applicable in Southern Nigeria).
    • Penal Code: Under this code, abortion is illegal unless it is performed to save the life of the woman.
    • Criminal Code: Similarly, this code criminalizes abortion but allows it to save the life of the pregnant woman.
  • Penalties: Violations of abortion laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment for both the provider and the woman seeking the abortion.

Health Implications

  • Unsafe Abortions: Due to the restrictive legal environment, many women resort to unsafe abortion methods. These can lead to severe health complications, including infections, hemorrhage, and even death.
  • Maternal Mortality: Unsafe abortions contribute significantly to Nigeria’s high maternal mortality rate. Addressing this issue is vital for improving women’s health outcomes.

Access to Safe Abortion

  • Legal Exceptions: Despite the restrictive laws, abortions are legally permitted to save a woman’s life. However, access to safe abortion services under this exception is limited.
  • Medical Services: Legal and safe abortion services should ideally be provided by trained healthcare professionals in registered medical facilities. However, many women lack access to these services due to various barriers, including stigma, lack of information, and financial constraints.

Abortion should be a thing of choice, especially in cases of unwanted pregnancies as a result of abuse, rape and so on. Not just in the case of Health related threats. It is essential for governments and health systems to prioritize and protect access to safe and legal abortion services as part of comprehensive reproductive health care.

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