By: Leescha Daniels
- the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy; most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- the expulsion of a foetus from the uterus by natural causes before it is able to survive independently.
The title of this blog is ironic owing to the fact that it seems in our beautiful democratic country, Namibia, abortion and pregnancy issues are not a ‘we’ problem but a problem for women and young girls who have to hide their pregnancies, or who have no support from their government or families or partners. Those women who are expected to walk into clinics and announce that their pregnancies as result of incest and/or rape, the implications thereof seem to fall away. It is equivalent to asking a man to walk into a police station and admit he is in fact a rapist.
Although Namibia does not promote abortion as means of family planning, it is treated as a public health issue. Abortion is only permissible in Namibia when “it can be performed under strict medical supervision within the confines of the laws, which state that consent to abortion can only be given in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger”.
The lack of emergency contraceptive use and the restrictions on access to safe legal abortion, attributes to Namibia’s high rate of baby dumping/abandonment of newborns. Many of these women feel stigmatized and unsupported. This leads to babies being dumped in rivers, garbage cans and bags along the road; not mention how dangerous some methods used by women/girls to induce abortion are. For example, some girls deliberately hurt themselves by throwing themselves downstairs, or drinking the residue of soaked newspapers in an attempt to digest the ink. It seems removing this option, only creates a greater problem, that only then becomes a ‘we’ problem. When it comes to mental health, abortion is not generally known to cause mental health issues, other factors play a role, such as being abandoned by your partner, already suffering from mental health issues, stigmatization, rejection from your family and the community at large.
In light of the current case involving a Pastor who raped his daughter (this is one case of many) who fell pregnant; although she was arrested for allegedly inducing an abortion or concealing the pregnancy, the allegation has not yet been confirmed. The man had been raping his daughter since she was 17 years old, she is now 30, was granted N$ 5000.00 bail. The victim, it seems, suffers the consequences of a crime committed by the perpetrator, in this case her own father. In terms of section 7(1) of the General Law Amendment Ordinance 13 of 1962, sections 6-10 it is a crime if you dispose of the body in order to conceal the fact that you are pregnant, the issue here is that the law does not take into consideration the socio-economic and mental implications for girls/women raped by family members. It also does not take into consideration the cultural aspects and the stigma attached to being pregnant before marriage. Women are forced, pressured and put in unbelievably difficult situations with regards to pregnancy at a young age particularly in cases of rape and incest. In saying so, this by all means does not condone baby dumping or self-induced abortions, but perhaps the problem can be eliminated before these drastic and desperate measures are taken.
Is restricting access to safe and legal abortion the answer or should this be at the family planning forefront? Some may not be pro-abortion, but maybe we should be pro-choice.