Doctors support abortion law review

22 June 2020 | Health

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK

Two prominent doctors have come out in support of a petition calling on Namibia to legalise abortion, saying the debate is long overdue and urgent.

Dr Bernard Haufiku, government health advisor and former health minister, says “women must be allowed to have options and decide for themselves on what they want and when they want it. Only them and no one else should decide on their bodies. Women, like everyone else, know what they want and don’t want.”

One of the country’s leading gynaecologists, Dr Matti Kimberg, describes himself as an "anti-abortionist who has been mugged by reality. Prevention is better than cure."

“We regularly have to deal with the tragic results of backstreet abortions. These affect careers, education, future childbearing abilities, families and can even have fatal consequences.”

Ultimately, Kimberg argues, "the saga returns again and again to women’s rights. Men, who often make the laws, are quick to scurry into the woodwork when faced with the reality and the responsibility of unwanted pregnancy.”

He says the current Abortion and Sterilisation Act of 1975, which was drafted and implemented 45 years ago by male politicians in apartheid-era South Africa, is “outdated and in conflict with current thinking on human rights, in this instance particularly as regards women.”

Both spoke in the wake of the 'Legalise Abortion in Namibia', petition, which has attracted close to 5 000 signatures in seven days.

Not personal

Haufiku underlined that discussions around sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), including abortion, should be non-biased, thorough and rational, and that “religion and politics should be taken out of it if the debate is to include some degree of objectivity.”

Haufiku warned that too often the abortion debate is "hijacked by people and organisations that have their own ideologies and political or other agendas. It is puzzling to me that men of all sorts of intentions, backgrounds and biases want to make decisions for and to control what women should or not do.”

Moreover, women must lead the way as they are most affected by the current law, which allow terminations only in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s or foetus’s life is endangered.

Haufiku underlined that "only when women are empowered with the necessary knowledge and have choices to make, will we reduce the dangers of backstreet and illegal abortions and all of its complications.”

Moreover, he says the "appropriate laws should be in place to allow choices for termination of pregnancies.”

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