HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLICATIONS OF THE CRIMINALIZATION OF ABORTION IN CAMEROON
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Historically, abortion has been underpinned by controversy and it remains so. Moral consensus on abortion is hard to achieve. At the same time, in the age of human rights, organs of state, including legislatures and the judiciary, cannot point to the lack of political, moral and religious consensus on abortion to Justify thier failure to address the injustices women suffer on account of abortion.When national authorities fail to implement abortion laws to respect, protect, and fulfil women’s human rights, including reproductive rights, women have the right to protect thier reproductive health by exercising thier rights to effective access to legal abortion sservice.¹
The incidence of abortion in Cameroon is well documented. African women bear a disproportionate burden of the risks of abortion. This is due to African states widespread and persistent failure to provide an enabling legal , regulatory, policy and programmatic environment to ensure that every woman who meets the eligible criteria for legal abortion has unimpeded access to save and quality services.
In addition , abortion laws and practices fail to recognize that abortion is inseparable part of women’s reproductive health as well as an important human rights concern. Many abortion laws are vaguely worded or have never been officially interpreted or implemented. Furthermore, women are frequently unable to access legal services even in the jurisdiction where a legal right to abortion is clearly recognized. Because states have failed to fulfil women’s legal entitlement to abortion, the historical criminalisation of abortion has a chilling effect.
Criminalisation of abortion impedes the ability of women to obtain safe abortion services and defeats public health and human right. Healthcare providers are therefore deterred and indeed unable to provide lawful services, as their duty, for fear of criminal prosecution. Because states fail to provide legal abortion services, each year thousands of African women seek unsafe abortions with deleterious consequences for thier lives and health. In particular, poor women with little or no education and economic means and adolescents , are disproportionately adversely affected².
¹world health organisation unsafe Abortion: Global and Regional Estimates of the incidence of unsafe Abortion and Associated Mortality in 2008 Geneva: World Health Organisation(2011)
² see section II of Human Rights And African Abortion Laws Handbook for Judges by Prof. Charles Ngwena
1.1 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Before examining the origin of Human Rights Implications Of the Criminalization of Abortion in cameroon, it is worthy to Explain in brief the concept of Abortion. Abortion is the voluntary termination of a pregnancy. In 2022, nearly 50years after Roe v Wade changed the legal status of abortion by striking down a Texas law that criminalised abortion except as a means of saving the life of the pregnant person, the united States Supreme courts in Dobbs V Jackson Women’s Health Organisation held that abortion is not a fundamental right under the US constitution, clearing the way for states to place laws that could not be challenged in courts.
The Roe V Wade case pittied individual privacy rights against states interest in regulating the due process clause of the Fourteenth amendment and the right to privacy maintained by the Ninth Amendment , the court ruled that an individuals personal autonomy and reproductive Rights extend to their decision to terminate their pregnancy .
The court had determined that states interest in the fetus became relevant only at viability, the point at which the fetus could survive independently from the pregnant person. Government bans on abortion became limited to post viability interventions, while at no point could the state privilege the life of the fetus over that of the pregnant person. Pre- viability regulations of abortion by state was limited by an individual right to choose to end thier pregnancy. Justice Blackmun’s trimester formular anchored the concept of viability and established a timetable according to which states could legally regulate abortion.
Roe never permitted abortion in every instance but balanced states’ interest in the life of the fetus with individual privacy rights.
Doe V Bolton, 410 U.S 179, decided by the court on the same day as The established the debates over so called partial birth abortion merely shifted to the legislative branch when Congress passed the partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Carhartt, one of only a handful of physicians Nationwide performing third trimester abortions, brought suit which claimed that the Act violated the personal liberty protections of the fifth Amendment by banning partial birth abortions without exceptions.³
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM