21 April 2012

Rwanda: Civil Society Petitions President Over Abortion

Photo: United Nations Development Programme
Une femme enceinte

Members of the Civil Society have appealed to President Paul Kagame not to sign the draft penal code.

During a news briefing yesterday, officials of the Rwanda Civil Society platform stated that they are firmly against the legalising of the conditions that were given an exception for abortion, apart from the fourth clause which states that when continuation of a pregnancy seriously jeopardises the health of the unborn baby or that of the woman.

Edouard Munyamaliza, the Chairperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said that signing the bill was taking the wrong path.

He stated that legalising abortion "is against our cultural values which should be respected even when making and passing laws." He said that unborn children's rights shouldn't be abused under the guise of women's rights.

Imaculee Ingabire, the Chairperson of Transparency Rwanda, said that there is no way the death penalty can be removed and then legalise abortion, which she said is contradictory since both are forms of killing.

"The only exception to abortion should be when continuation of a pregnancy seriously jeopardises the health of the unborn baby or that of the woman. The rest of the conditions aren't justifiable and shouldn't be made legal, Ingabire said.

She noted that abortion has terrible consequences to a woman's health which are both physical and mental, observing that emphasis should be made on encouraging use of family planning and contraception methods instead of legalising abortion which she referred to as homicide.

Ingabire added that no women's right that supports killing existed, therefore, unborn children should be given a chance to live.

She further noted that the opinions of the public should also be heard through a referendum so Rwandans can give their opinion.

Ingabire and Munyamaliza both contest the findings of a recent survey that was carried out about abortion in Rwanda, saying that they question the methodology that was used.

They argue that it was carried out secretly and civil society organisations weren't involved yet they were vital when it came to such issues.

While the draft penal code that was approved by the chamber of Deputies recently criminalises abortion. Article 165 stipulates that there is no criminal liability for a woman who causes her own abortion and a medical doctor who helps a woman to abort provided that the following four conditions are met:

When one conceives out of rape, incest, subject to forced marriage or abnormality of the unborn child or when the pregnancy can endanger the life of the woman.

Statistics from a recent abortion incidence study, conducted by the Ministry of Health, the National University of Rwanda's School of Public Health and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute, shows that the national abortion rate is 25 abortions per 1,000 females aged between 15 and 44.

This indicates that 60,000 pregnancies are terminated in Rwanda every year, with 40 per cent of them leading to complications that require treatment.

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