A bill in Sierra Leone seeking to legalize abortion has been blocked again by president Ernest Bai Koroma.
The bill had been unanimously passed by the country’s members of parliament in December, but Koroma declined to sign it after protests by religious leaders.
The Safe Abortion Act 2015 seeks to permit access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, after which it would be permitted until week 24 in cases of rape, incest, or health risk to the fetus or the woman or girl.
Sierra Leone’s current law, which dates from 1861, criminalizes abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
In February, the president faced pressure from rights groups, urging him to give the bill assent.
The president has now referred the bill to the constitutional review committee which is currently reviewing the country’s constitution.
Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that the west African country had one of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratio at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.