MSI Sierra Leone: Engaging with MPs to pass the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Bill

​MSI Sierra Leone has been a longstanding advocate for the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health (SMRH) Bill, a proposed piece of legislation that would expand abortion access in the country. If passed, the bill would allow abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality, and for the overall wellbeing of the woman – encompassing both physical and mental health.

MSI Sierra Leone has collaborated with the Ministry of Health, NGOs, and civil society coalitions, including the People Alliance for Reproductive Health Advocacy (PARHA), to work towards the drafting and passage of this critical legislation.

In December, MSI Sierra Leone and PARHA collaborated with the Ministry of Health to engage key committees in the House of Parliament, following the strategic roadmap established by the SMRH Bill technical working group. This collaborative effort involved the participation of 45 Members of Parliament, representing the female caucus, health, gender, legislative, and human rights committees.

The primary objective of this engagement was to familiarise the MPs, many of whom were newly elected in 2023, with the content of the SMRH bill. The event marked a significant step towards the passage of the bill; allowing MSI Sierra Leone to gather their valuable feedback and the open dialogue fostered a deeper understanding of, and support for, the bill’s crucial provisions.

Recognizing that women and girls are at the core of the bill, it was emphasized that female MPs would play a vital role in representing and advocating for passage 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 aspects of the bill’s wording was identified to provide clarity. One notable recommendation was to specify the number of weeks of gestation up to which termination of pregnancy would be authorized (14 weeks), addressing potential ambiguities and enhancing the precision of the legislation.

In response to the feedback received from MPs, the technical working group led multiple meetings to incorporate suggested changes. MSI and partners have also forged plans for greater female MP engagement before the bill is tabled in parliament.

The revised draft is undergoing validation by the ministerial cabinet, which will raise awareness, garner support, and navigate the legislative process effectively.

Overall, this comprehensive approach underscores the commitment to advancing reproductive health and rights in Sierra Leone, with tangible progress expected in the coming months.

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