MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA (ChurchMilitant.com) - An investigation is claiming that Nigeria's military is forcing women rescued from Islamic insurgents to have abortions.
British news agency Thomson Reuters published the results of its investigation on Wednesday, claiming the Nigerian military is responsible for at least 10,000 abortions since 2013.
Victims are women and girls kidnapped by armed insurgents during raids on villages in the primarily Muslim northeast quadrant of the country near Lake Chad. They were then "rescued" by the Nigerian military.
A civilian who claims to have performed abortions "under army orders" says the pogrom is "just like sanitizing society."
Reuters investigators say there is a "notion widely held within the military" and among some civilians in the region that "the children of insurgents are predestined, by the blood in their veins, to one day take up arms against the Nigerian government and society."
While it is not clear how "widely held" that view is within the military, four soldiers and one guard testified that their superiors told them the abortion program was needed to "destroy insurgent fighters before they could be born."
The Nigerian government is strongly denying the claims and saying such a program has never existed. In a Nov. 24 interview with Reuters, the head of the country's counterinsurgency campaign in the northeast said, "Not in Nigeria, not in Nigeria." Major General Christopher Musa went further in his remarks: "Everybody respects life. We respect families. We respect women and children. We respect every living soul."
General Lucky Irabor, Nigeria's chief of defense, refused comment on Reuters' findings, but the military's director of defense information quickly issued a five-page statement.
Major General Jimmy Akpor pointed out how insulting the accusations are to the Nigerian people and culture, then detailed how Nigerian military personnel are trained specifically to defend women, children and the elderly.
He also suggested that the media giant's report of army-led forced abortions was a kind of "media or press-bullying."
"The Reuters' series of stories are akin to telling the world that Nigerians still live on top of trees," Akpor wrote.
Reuters is reporting that the Nigerian army's secret, systemic program has been forcing thousands of rescued women to abort their children since 2013.
The northeast region of Nigeria is where the terrorist organization Boko Haram is based. This region of the country is primarily Muslim.
Roving bands of armed men raid villages and kidnap women and girls, raping them, beating them and sometimes taking them as "wives."
The Nigerian army's counterinsurgency units are charged with rescuing these victims.
Reuters is claiming that, once rescued from the terrorists, these women and girls are taken to barracks, or sometimes public hospitals, asked to give urine samples and then given injections "to aid in their recovery." They are not informed that the injection will induce abortion.
The injections are oxytocin. The women and girls, some as young as 12, immediately experience contractions, and their bodies begin expelling the baby.
The use of oxytocin is a dangerous abortion method, especially if not properly administered. Medical experts advise that it be administered through an IV drip, not an intermuscular injection.
Reuters includes firsthand accounts of women placed in makeshift tents where they are left to bleed out in the dirt.
Reuters says these procedures are taking place at five military facilities and five civilian hospitals in the region around Lake Chad.
The report claims to have documentary evidence, but none was provided beyond 33 victim accounts, as well as interviews with five healthcare workers and nine security personnel.
Reuters admits it was "unable to establish who created the abortion program or who in the military or government ran it."
Abortion is illegal in Nigeria except to save the life of the mother. Proponents of both of the country's two major religions, Christianity and Islam, condemn abortion.
Soldiers who participated in and/or witnessed the abortions expressed remorse and trauma.
Nigeria is an easy target. Considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world, Nigeria was, until recently, carrying the U.S. State Department's official and infamous designation: "Country of Particular Concern."
On Nov. 11, Revelation Media and Alliance Defending Freedom delivered a petition to the White House. Its 32,800 signatories called on the Biden administration to reinstate Nigeria as a "Country of Particular Concern."
The U.S. Department of State advises Americans to "reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime." The department singles out the Lake Chad area as being particularly dangerous.
Catholic priests and Christians of all varieties have been under constant attack for years. Aid to the Church in Need is reporting that, in the first eight months of 2022, 18 priests were kidnapped. Most were returned unharmed, but three were murdered.
Experts say it is difficult to separate your garden-variety bandits and pirates from organized terrorists.
The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom conducted a hearing in September focused on religious persecution in Africa's largest nation.
Experts testified that Nigeria's government has been unstable for generations, and its army has proven to be unable to protect its civilian population from terrorists, rural gangs of bandits and marauders at sea.
Notably, the Reuters investigation did provide information about the dangers of abortion, especially when administered by untrained personnel. It included rape victims saying they would have kept their babies despite the horrible circumstances under which they were conceived.
The report noted that some women died as a result of the Nigerian army's forced abortion program.