“Penal Code Does Not Condemn Abortion, But Restricts It”

Professor Emeritus Robert Leke, President of the Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon (SOGOC).

Despite the numerous risks involved in carrying out abortion, the Cameroon Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians is talking about “safe abortion”.  What exactly do you mean by safe abortion? 
There are two types of abortions (spontaneous and induced). Spontaneous can be complete or incomplete (needing completion) and induced abortion can be safe or unsafe and also complete or incomplete (whether legal or not). The Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians SOGOC is advocating "completion" by competent personnel in an appropriate environment using sterilized equipment. All induced abortion must respect the same principles. These conditions reduce the risk of complications (morbidity) to the minimum and mortality hence rendering the procedure safer. Safe abortion is one that is carried out by trained personnel in an appropriate environment and using sterile equipment and technique. 
In which conditions should “safe abortion” take place? 
The conditions and consequences are outlined in the Cameroon penal code articles 337, 338, 339 and specially article 339. They are also contained in the National Norms and Standards of Reproductive Health and Family Planning which have been validated by the Ministry of Public health. These conditions are pregnancy continuation that endangers the woman's health and pregnancy resulting from rape.  All these conditions are subjected to administrative/legal procedures outlined in same Norms and Standards document.
Cameroon’s penal code condemns abortion. How does the association seek to go about its message on safe abortion, especially given the cultural and religious backgrounds in the country? 
Thanks for the question. I would like to state that SOGOC does not promote nor support induced abortions. Our only concern is that complications of unsafe abortions constitute 25 per cent of maternal deaths in developing countries and one of the missions of SOGOC is to prevent maternal mortality. I wish to state that Cameroon's penal code does not condemn abortion but restricts circumstances for abortion. You see why it is important to educate the population on the legal provisions concerning abortion in Cameroon. Cameroon is a State of law that takes into consideration the cultural and religious background and our society works in conformity with the limits of the laws of the State.  We also respect the legal provisions as well as the signed and ratified conventions on the subject. 
What lobby has been done to change or amend the law on abortion in the country?
Our society is advocating modifications of article 339 of the Penal Code to put more visibility on what is meant by severe danger to the mother’s life particularly because a woman’s health is not only physical.  We are also advocating the inclusion of important issues like severe foetal malformations incompatible with life, incest and reduction of administrative procedures attached to article 339. In this light, we are working closely with the Ministries of Public Health and Women’s Empowerment and the Family.



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