18 Aug 2004

Samoa chief justice backs abortion law relaxation

3:23 pm on 18 August 2004

Samoa's Chief Justice says the country's strict laws banning abortion should be relaxed.

The Chief Justice, Patu Tiavaasue Falefatu Sapolu, made the remarks in sentencing a 34-year-old mother of four who's been found guilty of providing an abortion for another woman.

Akalita Apelu, a nurse at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, was jailed for two and a half years, although the prosecution had sought a four-year prison term.

Apelu, who pleaded guilty, said she had performed between 20 and 30 abortions but was prosecuted on 16 counts only.

Fifteen of these charges were dismissed.

A government lawyer at the trial, Komisi Koria, says Chief Justice Sapolu told the court that it was pregnant women, not Apelu, who sought the abortions.

Mr Koria says the chief Justice said there was a clear need for an abortion service carried out by those who were properly qualified.

"Before he passed sentence he told the court the case showed the need for a legal and accessible abortion service in Samoa, which was shown by the fact there were so many people who gave evidence in the case who had actually consulted this nurse and wanted her services."

A Samoan government lawyer, Komisi Koria.