When does the Right of a Child to Life Begin: Before or After Birth?


This article was first published Thursday, April 15, 2004, in the weekly column I kept for the Daily Independent Newspaper, a leading national daily in the sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria. Though 18 years have gone by, the thoughts are in my opinion are like an old wine or an exceptional work of art, which value appreciates with age, noting that some of the words I might have written differently today to line them up with empathy, but the line of thoughts and belief remain solid like the Rock of Gibraltar, unimpeachable in my sight and it represent my fervent advocacy for every precious child in the world today, irrespective of their geographical location.

I think I may just see children slightly different from the way the world may see them. For me, a child is a gift from God; a child is a mystery to be carefully studied, a child is an entity to be trained and treasured as the foundation for a glorious future. I think I see and treasure children the way I do and call them precious in my works for 3 fundamental reasons:

  1. I was denied of my childhood by those who loved me most, my primary and secondary parents. When I began to find my childhood at the age of 27, I discovered what I lost to an ERASED childhood and it is unquantifiable and irretrievable, except by divine intervention and I do not want that experience for another child, no, not under my immediate and distance watch.
  2. I have been working with our precious children since Friday, June 10, 1988, when my first article, reporting us being abused by a soldier in my hometown, Ondo, Ondo State, Nigeria was published in the Punch Newspaper, another leading national daily in the sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria. I live, I move and breathe children. They are irremovably entrenched in my thoughts to lead and defend them. I have seen then been a secondary parent to countless precious children.
  3. I was prepared for 15 years to be a primary parent, when our son, Tieriayooluwa was born on October 25, 2021, exactly one month to our 15th wedding anniversary. I think that period of preparation helped me to understand in ways billions of words cannot express that our precious children are persons of priceless worth that it may take God 15 years of preparation before committing the destiny of one into the hands of a man and a woman.

It is in the spirit of the forgoing, particularly the third reason, seeing how we guarded the pregnancy of our son jealousy that I dived into my archive to pull out this 18 year old piece to share with you as I believe the same is relevant for such a time like this.

“Every child has an inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. States Parties to the present Charter shall ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the survival, protection and development of the child. Death sentence shall not be pronounced for crimes committed by children.” Article 5 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

This is the second piece under our sobering series, Child’s Right to Life: ‘Childhood under threat.’ Today we are discussing the threat of abortion. I charge you to sit back, supply all due diligence to keep your entire mind on how to turn the words of this treatise into concrete action. Here we go:

Article 1 of the Convention on the right of the Child defines a child as, “Every human being below the age of eighteen years…” The true interpretation of the forgoing will not be fully appreciated until it is read conjunctively with paragraph 10 of the preamble of the Convention, which provides as follows; ‘Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, BEFORE AS WELL AS AFTER BIRTH”.

The phrase, “THE CHILD…BEFORE AS WELL AS AFTER BIRTH’ strongly indicates that Article 1 accommodates an unborn child in its meaning of a child. The interpretation above enjoys the support of Webster’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary, which defines a child as ‘unborn or recently born person.’

Flowing from the above interpretation of Article 1 of the Child’s Right Convention, the life of a child begins when it is conceived in the womb and so is the protection of its rights. It then follows that an unborn child has certain rights, which include the right to life as contained in Article 5 (1) & (2) of The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as follows:

Every child has an inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law.

State Parties to the present Charter shall ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the survival, protection, and development of the child”.

Also, Section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides, “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” Please note the death sentence does not apply in crimes committed by children.

Where then does an unborn child’s right to life begin? It begins with a commitment by the expecting parents, particularly the mother to safe and sound delivery of the child. It then follows that any deliberate action by the parents that jeopardizes the safe delivery of a child is viewed by the law as a breach of its right to life. This explains why sections 228, 229 and 230 of the Criminal Code frown at induced abortion –‘…expulsion from the womb of an embryo or a foetus”.

That abortion has become a seemingly insurmountable problem is deducible from the following fact supplied by a report: “Approximately 50,000 illegal abortions are performed every day in the developing world.” In a public presentation of findings of studies on induced abortion in Nigeria by the Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy (CAUP) and the Alan Guttmache Institute (AGI), New York, it was revealed that abortion has become a major problem in Nigeria desiring attention…”

If induced abortion has become “a major problem in Nigeria,” It means the right of the unborn child to life is being breached with impunity contrary to constitutional provision. It is important to note that the Criminal Code recognizes three categories of offences when it comes to induced abortion:

  1. Section 28 covers ‘any person who with the miscarriage of a woman… unlawfully administers” to her drugs
  2. Section 229 provides, “any woman who with intent to procure miscarriage…unlawfully administers to herself drugs.
  3. Section 230 state, “unlawfully supplies to or procures for a person anything whatever used to procure the miscarriage of a woman”

Personal investigation reveals that only few medical doctors and pharmacists in Nigeria are not caught in the web of the first and third categories of the offences.

That this fundamental right of the unborn child is being trampled upon, I strongly believe, is not unknown to law enforcement agents, who always choose to look another way when a dire demand is placed on their constitutional responsibility to enforce the law.

This is a call to all those who have conscience to safe the unborn from the attack of wicked and unscrupulous members of the society, whose decisions are always motivated by selfish interests. A people who procures “approximately 50,000 illegal abortions… everyday” can only invite the wrath of the Almighty. We all have the collective responsibility to stop this rot by resolving to be committed to the following lines of action:

• Start a campaign against abortion both in your neighbourhood and in the print and electronic media. Our campaign against abortion must address the disturbing level of promiscuity that is today common among young people in our nation. The beginning of abortion in most cases is presence of ‘unwanted pregnancies.’ It is also important that we focus on family planning.
• Report every suspect
• Ensure that reported suspects are investigated and prosecuted.

To save the life of the Nigerian child, both born and unborn, is a task that must be done. In fact, it is a task commanded by God. Intimate me with your faithfulness to the outlined lines of actions or suggestions on how we can stop the rot of abortion in our land and save the lives of countless unborn children.

See you next week as we consider another threat to the right of the child to life. Shalom!

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