Health minister urges abortion debate

28 March 2017 | Health


Health minister Bernhard Haufiku says the time has come to renew the debate on decriminalising abortion after more than 7 100 women were treated at state hospitals last year for complications arising from suspected illegal abortions.

The minister said 7 335 abortions were recorded at health facilities, of which only 138 were legally performed on medical grounds.

The minister said the vast majority of the abortions were back-street abortions, and these numbers indicated that a fresh debate was urgently needed.

“I am reporting it here because obviously this is a major concern as unsafe abortions pose a major risk to women’s physical and mental health. We need an honest and thorough national reflection on the reasons why so many women risk their lives by [getting] unsafe abortions in a country where contraceptives are widely available.

“Most importantly, we need to ask ourselves whether it is not time to relook at the legislation and decriminalise abortion. The facts speak for themselves.”

Doctors confirmed yesterday that at least three women had died from botched abortions since 2015, and that many more were treated for serious complications following illegal backstreet abortions.

Haufiku said a wider debate on the issue was crucial.

Doctors pointed out that many of the more than 7 100 abortions recorded could have been miscarriages with natural causes.

Still, Haufiku emphasised that the numbers were a red flag showing that the situation was “completely out of control”.

The majority of women who attempt illegal abortions in Namibia are under the age of 25, and many are in their teens, doctors said. Complications from illegal abortions are numerous and could lead to lifelong health complications, infertility and death.

In Namibia, baby dumping regularly makes headlines and some experts feel that it results partly from the limited reproductive rights Namibian women enjoy.

Haufiku warned that the actual number of illegal abortions was probably much higher than official records indicate.

“It is suspected this is only the tip of the iceberg as it is common knowledge that most abortions are done in secret. Often an abortion will only be presented to health facilities when it is incomplete or if the woman develops complications.”

He said in many cases women only reported to a hospital when they were already “very, very sick”.

“We tend to brand [women who have abortions] as the naughty ones. But there are a lot of reasons why people terminate pregnancies. And these are the issues I want us to debate as a country. Not only debate, but come up with possible solutions,” the minister said.

Doctors say between six and ten women are admitted to the Windhoek Central and Katutura state hospitals daily, presenting with complications from spontaneous miscarriages.

Dr David Uriab, the chief medical supervisor at the Windhoek Central Hospital, said: “How do you prove it is a backstreet abortion? It would not make sense to report everyone [to the police] coming in with a bleeding. Obviously the majority will claim that this happened spontaneously, or through an infection or an accident.”

Dr Shonag McKenzie, head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Windhoek Central Hospital, said medical staff are trained and equipped to treat miscarriages in order to reduce the risk of complications.

They also offer long-acting contraceptive options to patients, particularly very young women.

In addition, mothers are referred to social workers to help them plan their pregnancies and to help them cope psychologically and socially.

“A lot of these are unplanned pregnancies,” McKenzie said, adding that the hospital focuses on providing long-term assistance.

Similar News


Ambassador to hand over health donations

22 hours ago | Health

The United States Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, will today hand over prefabricated containers at the Nkurenkuru Health Centre in the Kavango West Region.Daughton will...

LGBTI group more prone to HIV

1 week ago - 11 September 2017 | Health

A recent study has concluded that HIV/Aids prevalence rates are relatively higher among certain population groups, based largely on their sexual orientation.The study was carried...


1 week ago - 08 September 2017 | Health

Homemade remedies for hay fever can quickly reduce seasonal allergy reactions, providing relief from symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itching, congestion and coughing. Hay...

Running on fumes

1 week ago - 08 September 2017 | Health

You're only as old as you feel, the saying goes. But what if you feel old, tired, and rundown? Fatigue is a common complaint, especially...

Blue Kunene renders humanitarian aid

2 weeks ago - 05 September 2017 | Health

Two people were airlifted from the Kunene Region to the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital after military doctors forming part of the SADC joint air force exercise...

PrEP treatment makes inroads

2 weeks ago - 04 September 2017 | Health

About 44 people have accessed the oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) anti-HIV treatment from two Walvis Bay Corridor Group clinics and the Nappa clinic in Windhoek....

Aids funds are drying up

2 weeks ago - 01 September 2017 | Health

Namibia cannot afford to be caught with its pants down and must urgently find ways to mobilise domestic resources to combat HIV amid plans by...

Mission accomplished: Kamwi

2 weeks ago - 01 September 2017 | Health

Former health minister Richard Kamwi, who has fought tooth and nail for training registered nurses in Namibia, says the healthcare sector has come full circle....

Yellow fever in spotlight

2 weeks ago - 01 September 2017 | Health

African health ministers currently meeting for the 67th session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee in Zimbabwe have agreed on 10 priority actions...

No more foreign nurses for Nam

2 weeks ago - 31 August 2017 | Health

Namibia will no longer take in foreign nurses, as it is reserving vacancies for its first batch of student nurses expected to graduate at the...

Latest News

Chinese labour on cement project...

22 hours ago | Labour

Whale Rock Cement, currently building the second cement factory outside Otjiwarongo, says it will retain 150 out of 400 Chinese workers when the construction phase...

Chicken-stealing neighbour arrested

22 hours ago | Crime

KENYA KAMBOWE The Omusati police have arrested a 25-year-old man from Omagalanga village in the Oshikuku constituency who allegedly stole and slaughtered about 20...

Teen dies after jumping from...

22 hours ago | Crime

JANA-MARI SMITH Ondangwa police are investigating a case of culpable homicide after a 13-year-old boy died when he jumped out...

Murder accused a no-show at...

22 hours ago | Justice

A 50-year-old man from Karasburg, who is accused of killing his girlfriend, failed to turn up at the start of his trial where he also...

BIG back on the cards

22 hours ago | Social Issues

There is proof that a basic-income grant can improve the lives of people, says the special advisor to the minister of poverty eradication and social...

Swakop considering by-law on plastic...

22 hours ago | Environment

The Swakopmund Municipality is planning on introducing a by-law which will compel shops to only stock reusable shopping bags, instead of the current lightweight bags...

Ambassador to hand over health...

22 hours ago | Health

The United States Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, will today hand over prefabricated containers at the Nkurenkuru Health Centre in the Kavango West Region.Daughton will...

VP attends Oshipe festival

22 hours ago | Cultural

Launched early this year by President Hage Geingob, Operation Tulongeni which was aimed at encouraging farmers to start working their fields following good rains, was...

Amunyela: Swapo needs business voice

22 hours ago | Politics

Businessman Desmond Amunyela believes the ruling Swapo party needs to focus more on economic policy given the challenges facing the country. Amunyela, who is a...

Load More