Church, civil society butt heads over abortion

19 October 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES



WINDHOEK

The Voices for Choices and Rights Coalition wants abortion to be legalised up to the seventh month of pregnancy, while petitioners of the Coalition of Churches in the Omaheke Region say there is no proof that life does not begin at conception.

Pro-Life Namibia argued that abortion is the intentional killing of a live foetus and that it is safe to say abortion is an act or form of murder, which should only be justified in a set of specific circumstances as a form of defence.

The church insisted that abortions will undo the moral fabric of society and will lead to the erasure of ‘natural shame’ between genders and ultimately breed dishonesty, disrespect, promiscuity, pornography and substance abuse.

“Abortion is a wound to the soul, a wound to the body. A wound to society,” the church petitioners said at the ongoing public hearing.

They are also convinced that abortion is taking life into your own hands and that legalising abortion on demand will lead to a society that disrespects the value of all human life and will eventually lead to a demand for euthanasia.

Pro-Life Namibia believes abortion is un-African and can be compared to the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan.

“It is my personal opinion that abortion is the new apartheid. You know, he who controls the language controls the narrative. We are Africans as we sit here and abortion is not intrinsically African. How did it become more palatable? If you were to replace a foetus with baby, if you replace abortion with baby killing, how many of us in this room would actually be pro-choice?” a pro-life petitioner said.

Free abortions

Meanwhile, Voices for Choices wants access to abortion for persons who are HIV positive, trans and queer, as well as for those aged 12 and older without parental/guardian consent. The coalition also called for the preservation of pregnant persons’ mental and physical health.

They are further demanding a range of policy changes which include decriminalising abortion by removing criminal sanctions for pregnant persons and replacing the Abortion and Sterilisation Act of 1975 with a new ‘Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy and Sterilisation’ Act.

The group further called on government to provide free abortion services at public healthcare institutions and to grant abortions when contraceptives have failed or when the pregnancy will affect the pregnant person’s socioeconomic situation.

The group believes the current Act promotes state-determined procreation, without due process of the law, in denying women, girls and gender non-confirming individuals a choice on when to start a family.

Undue burden

“It is evident that the criminalisation of safe abortions imposes an undue burden on access to healthcare - it defeats public health measures. Unsafe abortions are life-threatening, which is not pro-life, but is in fact anti-choice,” the pro-choice group said.

“The criminalisation of abortion does not deter pregnant persons from seeking an abortion. Pregnant persons with unwanted pregnancies are likely to have an abortion regardless whether it is permitted under the law or not.

“Evidence shows that where the law does not restrict access to safe abortion, rates of mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion are drastically lower than in more restrictive settings. Thus, abortion as a right is a good public health policy choice,” they said.

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