The Nigerian military has been running an illegal, forced mass abortion program since at least 2013 in an effort to combat Islamic terrorism, Reuters reported Wednesday.
Nigerian soldiers in the country's northeast region have ended at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and young girls since the program began, Reuters reported, with some of them being as young as 12 years old. Those who resisted the abortions were reportedly "beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance."
Eyewitness accounts given to Reuters said the abortions were typically carried out without the consent of the patient — and they were often given no prior knowledge of the procedure. Of the 33 women that the outlet interviewed, only one said she had given her consent.
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According to Reuters, the majority of the women who underwent these forced abortions had been kidnapped and impregnated by Islamic militants, many belonging to the terrorist organization Boko Haram. A fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram has been involved in an ongoing war with Nigeria for more than a decade.
The abortion program is allegedly part of a widespread effort by the Nigerian military to thin Boko Haram's ranks. According to Reuters, this is partially due to a common belief within the military that "the children of insurgents are predestined, by the blood in their veins, to one day take up arms against the Nigerian government." A number of soldiers told the outlet that the abortion program was needed "to destroy insurgent fighters before they could be born."
Nigerian officials have denied the existence of the program.
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