Marie Stopes Engaged Members of Parliament on SMRH Bill

12 February 2024

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Sierra Leone's Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health (SMRH) Bill has been a longstanding commitment for Marie Stopes Sierra Leone. The organization has been a steadfast advocate for the bill, aligning efforts with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and collaborating with various NGOs and civil society coalitions, including the People Alliance for Reproductive Health Advocacy (PARHA). Together, they have worked towards the drafting and passage of this critical legislation.

The proposed SMRH bill holds the promise of transformative change for women and girls in Sierra Leone. Among its significant provisions is the expansion of access to abortion, addressing the current restrictive environment in the country. If passed, the bill would allow abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality, and for the overall well-being of women, encompassing both physical and mental health considerations.

Aligned with the strategic roadmap established by the SMRH bill technical working group, MSSL and PARHA collaborated with the MoH to engage key committees of the House of Parliament in December 2023. This collaborative effort involved the participation of 45 Members of Parliament, representing the female caucus, health, gender, legislative, and human rights committees of Sierra Leone's Parliament.

The primary objectives of this engagement were to familiarize the MPs, many of whom were newly elected due to the 2023 elections, with the content of the SMRH bill. The session aimed to gather their valuable feedback, fostering a deeper understanding and support for the bill's crucial provisions. This concerted effort represents a significant step towards achieving the goal of tabling and approving the SMRH bill in Parliament, thereby advancing reproductive health rights in Sierra Leone

The collaborative efforts between Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoH), and partners like the People Alliance for Reproductive Health Advocacy (PARHA) signify a pivotal advancement in promoting reproductive health rights in Sierra Leone. The success of the engagement in December 2023 marked a significant milestone, characterized by constructive debates, valuable feedback, and the formulation of recommendations to facilitate the passage of the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health (SMRH) Bill.

During the event, it became evident that dedicated engagement for female Members of Parliament (MPs) is crucial. Recognizing that women and girls are at the core of the bill, it was recommended and emphasized that female MPs would play a vital role in representing and advocating for them among their peers. This insight highlighted the importance of ensuring that the voices of women are central to the legislative process.

Additionally, the need for amendments to certain aspects of the bill's wording was identified to provide clarity. One notable recommendation was to specify the number of weeks of gestation (14) up to which termination of pregnancy would be authorized. This modification aimed to address potential ambiguities and enhance the precision of the legislation.

In response to the constructive feedback received during the December 2023 engagement, the Technical Working Group (TWG) took proactive steps in January 2024. Multiple meetings were conducted to incorporate the suggested changes and update the draft legislation accordingly. The suggested female parliamentarian exclusive engagement has been slated for early March 2024 in readiness before the bill is tabled to parliament.

The revised draft is undergoing validation by the ministerial cabinet, after which it will be tabled in Parliament. These initiatives are designed to raise awareness, garner support, and navigate the legislative process effectively. Overall, this comprehensive approach underscores the commitment to advancing reproductive health rights in Sierra Leone, with tangible progress expected in the coming months.





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