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Abortion policy


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Liberia



ABORTION POLICY


Grounds on which abortion is permitted:
To save the life of the woman Yes

To preserve physical health Yes

To preserve mental health Yes

Rape or incest Yes

Foetal impairment Yes

Economic or social reasons No

Available on request No
Additional requirements:
No abortion can be performed unless two physicians, one of whom may be the physician performing the abortion, certify to the circumstances that justify the intervention. Certificates from the two physicians must be submitted to the hospital where the procedure will be performed or to the Minister of Health if the abortion is not to be performed in a hospital. If the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, the certificates must also be submitted to the County Attorney or the police before the abortion is performed. Failure to comply with any of these requirements gives rise to the presumption that the abortion is unjustified.


REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CONTEXT

Government view on fertility level: Too high


Government intervention concerning fertility level: To lower
Government policy on contraceptive use: Direct support provided
Percentage of currently married women using

modern contraception (aged 15-49, 1986): 6


Total fertility rate (1995-2000): 6.3
Age-specific fertility rate (per 1,000 women aged 15-19, 1995-2000): 213
Government has expressed particular concern about:

Morbidity and mortality resulting from induced abortion Yes

Complications of childbearing and childbirth Yes
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births, 1990):

National 560

Western Africa 1 020
Female life expectancy at birth (1995-2000): 48.5


BACKGROUND

In 1976, the Liberian Penal Law was amended to incorporate new abortion provisions. Under Section 16.3 of the Law, the performance of abortions is prohibited except when a licensed physician believes that there is a substantial risk that continuation of the pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother, or that the child would be born with a grave physical or mental defect, or that the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest, or other felonious intercourse. Intercourse with a girl under 16 years of age is forbidden and deemed felonious for the purpose of the law.


Two physicians, one of whom may be the physician performing the abortion, must certify in writing as to the circumstances that justify the procedure. Certificates from the two physicians must be submitted in advance to the hospital where the abortion is to be performed or to the Minister of Health if the abortion is not to be performed in a hospital. The certificates must also be submitted to the County Attorney or the police if the pregnancy resulted from felonious intercourse. Failure to comply with any of these requirements gives rise to the presumption that the abortion was unjustified.
There are various penalties for failing to comply with the law. Any person performing an illegal abortion commits a felony of the third degree or, if the duration of the pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks, a felony of the second degree. A woman whose pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks commits a felony of the third degree if she purposely induces her own abortion, or if she uses instruments, drugs or violence upon herself for the purpose of inducing an abortion. A person who knowingly assists a woman to use instruments, drugs or violence upon herself for the purpose of terminating her own pregnancy commits a felony of the third degree regardless of whether the duration of the pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks. If, by representing that his or her purpose is to perform an abortion, a person performs an act designed to cause abortion--even though the woman is not pregnant or the person does not believe that she is pregnant--that person is considered to have committed a felony of the third degree. Under the Law, Section 16.3 does not apply to the prescription, administration or distribution of drugs or other substances for avoiding pregnancy, whether by preventing implantation of a fertilized ovum or by any other method that operates before, at, or immediately after fertilization.
The Government of Liberia has expressed concern about the high incidence of illegal abortion. The Government has explicitly stated that the reduction of illegal abortion is one of the major goals of the family planning programme. Illegal abortions are particularly common among urban adolescent women. A survey conducted at Monrovia in 1984 among young women aged 14-21 years found that over 50 per cent of students and 20 per cent of non-students that had ever been pregnant had had an induced abortion.
Family planning services are operated by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Family Planning Association of Liberia. Access to contraception is permitted to adolescents regardless of marital status. The Government’s target is to provide contraceptives to all couples and individuals desiring to use them. Contraceptive use is currently very low in Liberia. In 1986, the Liberia Demographic and Health Survey found that only 6 per cent of women of reproductive age were using modern methods of contraception.





Source: The Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources, see list of references.




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