Cover Photo: Tallulah Pomeroy
Tallulah Pomeroy

Guidelines to a Safe Abortion in Nigeria

“Culture should change as people do because people should define culture.”

Text messages are the best things because you can calmly brush off the need to ask questions—it is too late for that, understanding how it happened would not change what happened—and casually tell her of all the people you knew who thought they were pregnant because their periods came a few days late and her worries are probably nothing. If she tries to apologize for her carelessness, remind her you were careless in equal measure and then apologize in return. If she puts the blame entirely on you, ignore the former and apply only the latter—apologize in return. If she is too scared to either accept or place the blame on you, claim the blame and then apologize in return. If she is actually carrying your baby, the least you could carry, to lift some weight off her, is the blame.

Jokes are good; they keep both of you from panicking. Panicking is bad; it never solves any problem. At this point you are not even certain there is a problem yet, but you cannot take chances. You might be tempted to take chances if you are unmarried, unprepared to bring a child into the world, and unwilling to accept responsibility or if you do not have the time or balls to get properly checked at a clinic, but do not panic. Try to be certain. The cheap piss-on-a-stick test kits masquerading as certainty come with no manual and are probably the only things in the world you cannot learn on YouTube. The Clearblue digital test kit is actual certainty, plus it is really fancy—bright colors and curvy edges—which is really reassuring. Actual certainty is good if the test turns out positive, not so much if it’s negative and you are stuck with a piece of plastic that could have bought you both dinner at Spurs, with dessert.

The pregnancy was her own thing: The change in her body, the change in her lifestyle, maybe even the change from her living to her dying and, of course, the choice of whether or not to be pregnant at all. I, a man, could not choose what she should do with her body and her pregnancy, I could only choose to be willing and able to support her eventual choice. Society could not choose for her either; it would neither guarantee her access to safe abortion and healthcare if she refused to keep it nor would it guarantee her child’s basic needs if she decided to keep it. Society could only choose to be willing and able to support her eventual choice. Culture should never choose for her. If the only argument for making a choice is that “Our ancestors did it,” the argument is very problematic. “Our ancestors” once argued for slavery and human sacrifices when it benefited them. Culture should change as people do because people should define culture and not vice versa.

Buhari don spoil country

“The Nigerian Criminal Code is currently enforced in southern states. The abortion laws of the Criminal Code are expressed within sections 228, 229, and 230. Section 228 states that any person providing a miscarriage to a woman is guilty of a felony and up to 14 years of imprisonment. Section 229 states that any woman obtaining a miscarriage is guilty of a felony and up to imprisonment for 7 years. Section 230 states that anyone supplying anything intended for a woman’s miscarriage is also guilty of a felony and up to 3 years of imprisonment.” Hospitals would not help you. In succinct terms, fuck the government and discuss options discreetly at your neighborhood bar.


The last and most important necessity to a safe abortion is trust, just as she trusted me, just as I trusted the Doctor at Rooftop, who in turn trusted his colleague, just as the Doctor’s colleague trusted his tools. Maybe there is no such thing as a safe abortion with such uncertainty, especially considering the weight of emotion and circumstance, and especially when you cannot find the free Marie Stoppes clinic about ten kilometers down the Isheri-Lasu expressway just before the Igando bus stop. But nothing can be achieved without trust.

Nnamdi Ehirim is a fiction writer and essayist on social issues whose writing has previously appeared in Afreada, The Kalahari Review, The Republic Journal and Brittle Paper.