The House of Representatives has commenced consideration of a bill to provide free ante-natal care to all pregnant women and stipends for mothers of triplets and other multiple births. The bill initiated by Dr. Tony Nwoye representing Anambra East/West Federal Constituency also aims to address discrimination against pregnant women in the working place with sanctions stipulated against an employer who discriminates against a woman on account of her pregnancy. Explaining his reason for the bill, Nwoye told the House that it was meant to draw government support towards the special circumstances of pregnant women and their unborn children in the light of constitutional provisions of the right to life for everyone.
“The condition of pregnancy is very delicate; it is an endangered stage for both the pregnant woman and the unborn child. The circumstances at home and the places of work for most pregnant women are not only disastrous but also life-threatening and sometimes leading to loss of life of either the mother or child or both. “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has guaranteed the right to life as a fundamental human right. By passing this bill on free maternity care for pregnant women and other related matters, we have fulfilled our duty to the constitution.” “Among the provisions of the bill is free ante-natal, prenatal and post-natal medical care to pregnant women in Government hospitals (accredited and eligible primary and secondary health care facilities) where there is National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for the provision of health services to Nigerians. “Where an indigent family gives birth to a set of triplets or more, the Government is bound to provide stipends to assist the family.
In the case of an abandoned or deserted newborn child, the bill provides for contact tracing, Police assistance, medical care and social welfare for the baby. “Funding for the programmes for the bill is expected to come from funds earmarked for the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and statutory provisions from the federal budget. The bill also offers special provision for the rights of working mothers in the federation. Among others, the bill mandates all employers of labour to grant a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave to any working mother, whether single or married; prohibits employers of labour from demanding or conducting pregnancy test, or demanding pregnancy certificates, when any woman is applying for employment, except where any other law restricts pregnant or nursing mothers from working in such an environment.
The bill also forbids employers of labour from terminating the appointment/employment of any working woman on the grounds of her pregnancy or child birth or nursing needs. It prescribes punishment for any person who abuses a pregnant woman. Such a person upon conviction is liable to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or both.