The Reuters report said at least 10,000 pregnancies were forcibly terminated, mostly without consent, in northeastern Nigeria.
Nigeria’s military has denied running an illegal program for years to provide abortions to women and girls who have been victims of armed groups in the northwest, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
“Since at least 2013, the Nigerian military has run a secret, systematic and illegal abortion program in the northeast of the country, terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls,” the news agency said.
He said many of the women and girls had been kidnapped and raped by armed fighters, adding that those who resisted an abortion risked being “beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged to comply.”
The report was based on witness statements from 33 women and girls, five health workers and nine security personnel involved in the alleged program, and on military documents and hospital records “that describe or account for thousands of procedures of abortion”.
Most of the abortions, Reuters said, were carried out without the woman’s consent and some without her prior knowledge, through abortion pills or injections masquerading as drugs to improve health or fight disease. The agency could not establish who created the abortion program or determine who in the military or the government ran it.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that Washington was investigating the report.
“It was a heartbreaking report. … It is a worrying report and that is why we are looking for more information,” he said.
Northeast Nigeria is the epicenter of a conflict led by armed groups, most notably Boko Haram in 2009.
More than 40,000 people have been killed and around two million displaced in the protracted conflict, which has spread to neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
In its reaction, the Nigerian military criticized the report as “a bundle of insults against the Nigerian people and culture. Nigerian military personnel have been raised, raised and trained to protect lives,” he said.
“[The] The Nigerian military, therefore, will not contemplate the evil of running a systematic and illegal abortion program anywhere at any time, and surely not on our own soil.”
Religion plays a central role in Nigerian life, with Islam the dominant faith in the north of the country and Christianity in the south.
Abortion is illegal in the country except when the mother’s life is in danger.
In the north, illegal termination of pregnancy carries the risk of a 14-year jail term.
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