The contentious topic of abortion returned to the front burner this week after gender minister Doreen Sioka came under fire for deeming the practise immoral.
The minister was quoted, as saying in The Namibian that abortion will never be legalised as long as there are orphanages and children’s home.
The issue sparked wide-scale debate, especially on social media, this week.
Former health minister Dr Richard Kamwi decisively stood firm on his beliefs as he did years ago and reiterated his stance on how Namibia can tackle the abortion debacle.
“In as much as we remain vocal about abortion in the country, it is still taking place illegally and in the process, many young women are dying because of that,” Kamwi told New Era yesterday in a brief interview. He said the country could avoid unnecessary maternal deaths if it legalises abortion like its neighbours, South Africa, Botswana and other African Union member states.
“Through the legalisation of abortion, they have minimised deaths. I appeal to the government of the republic to reconsider this for simple reasons given. Let us not forget that because of abortion being illegal, this ultimately leads to baby dumping as well. It is one of the contributors of baby dumping,” Kamwi emphasised. “I have been in that hot seat before, I know what is happening. If we want to save our young women, let’s legalise it.”
He also partially blamed men who deny fathering babies for contributing to the abortion rate in the country.
“Men are contributing to this when they decide to deny ever fathering a child with their partner or someone they have been intimate with. I am appealing to my government, let us allow legal abortion to take place,” he added.
Beauty Boois, a psychological counsellor, entrepreneur and columnist recently created a petition for the legalisation of abortion, saying not only are Namibian women left with no choice but to break the law to practice their right of choice, but they are also risking their lives, health, and wellbeing to obtain illegal abortions. Over 5 000 people have given the petition a thumbs-up.
“This puts Namibian women at risk, because about 500 women die every year because of illegal abortions, adding onto the threat against their wellbeing posed by other social issues such as gender-based and sexual violence in the country, which are at alarmingly high rates,” Boois stated in the petition.
She further said the right to be able to access legal abortion in Namibia should be accompanied by education of matters relating to sexual health and reproductive rights as well as consent to prevent unwanted pregnancies, baby dumping and encourage safe, legal abortions in the country.
“Counselling and support structures will also need to be implemented to empower Namibian women, who are considering or have undergone abortion with the necessary guidance and support to make well-informed decisions and freely practice rights and freedom of autonomy over our bodies,” she said. Swapo parliamentarian Mandela Kapere took to Facebook to weigh in on the contentious issue.
“It is hollow morality in my view to condemn abortion when we as a society stay quiet and unaffected by the throngs of unwanted children in our country,” posted Kapere. He said the fact that the country has over 300 000 (and increasing) children benefitting from welfare grants, speaks amongst others to the crisis of absent fathers and weakening social support systems in the country.
“More and more of our children are neglected, abused and burdened onto the State. It is also the fact that abortions are indeed happening, especially for those with the financial means to cross the border to South Africa and those who can pay medical practitioners to provide them with the care illegally,” elaborated Kapere.
He further said: “The issue is not whether it should happen, the issue for debate currently should be how to make safe abortions accessible to women, should they need it. Access to safe abortion should be an option available for any woman in this day and age, not only the wealthy.”
Popular Democratic Movement MP and shadow minister of health Winnie Moongo said the nation couldn’t shy away from the fact that abortion is happening.
“Let it be known that this is not entirely related to the knowledge of and lack of contraceptives. Women both young and older are performing illegal abortions on the background of various reasons known to them,” she said.
“A qualitative study exploring the perceptions and opinions should be conducted to yield recommendations to assist the lawmakers.” While on the campaign trail in November last year, President Hage Geingob supported calls for the issue to be revisited.
“One day, we have to pass the law to legalise abortion. People are dying because they have to go to dark corners. So, whether it is legal or not, people are doing it,” he said while engaging young people in Windhoek.