Since lawmakers in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament on Tuesday 8th December 2015 ratified the Private Members’ motion bill titled: ‘The Safe Abortion Act, 2015”, the bill is now before President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma for his assent to pass it into law. The Bill seeks to allow Sierra Leonean girls and women unimpeded access to what they labeled as ‘safe’ abortion.
Consequently, representatives of the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) today Wednesday January 6, 2016, paid a follow-up courtesy call on President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House to not just express their opposition to the bill, but also discuss the way forward.
President Koroma informed the delegation that Parliament has passed the bill and it’s before him for signature, stating that today (Wednesday) is the last day for his assent and comments on what Parliament should look at.
“This is not a government initiated bill but a Private Members’ bill. I must say that I have also had representations, text messages and calls on the same issue and the Secretary to the President (SP) also presented a letter to me by a congressman from the US expressing similar views on the same matter. But we have always consulted with you on matters of national importance,” he told the gathering of religious leaders.
The president said he will refer the matter to parliament in order for them to hold consultations with the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone, and pointed out that the SP would forward concerns by religious leaders to parliament in order to review the bill without even coming back to him. “Religious leaders represent a huge constituency across the country. I will ask parliament to put a hold on the bill pending discussions on the issue. I will not give assent now but will send it back to parliament,” President Koroma assured.
Bishop Archibald Cole, one of the representatives of the IRCSL, said they are following up on the last meeting before the New Year. He noted that they were not sufficiently educated on the Abortion Bill because “we are dealing with the inalienable life of man to live. A Bill that would tend to take that life will have serious implications for our generational landscape. We knew it would have to come to you for assent,” he told the president.
Rev. Dr Osman Fornah also a member of the IRCSL said President Koroma has a very cordial relationship with religious leaders across the country, and therefore would want to ask for more time to hold a national conference on the matter.
Sheik Abu Bakarr Conteh also of the IRCSL described the issue as a delicate matter but believed the main points have been delivered to the president.
Also present at the meeting were the newly appointed Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.