Public hearings on abortion start

19 October 2021 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES

The Voices for Choices and Rights Coalition wants abortion to be legalised and the right for women to terminate an abortion up to 28 weeks – seven months; while those aged 12 and older should be granted access without parental consent.

In addition, they push for access to abortion when a person is HIV positive and for those aged 12 and older without parental and guardian consent, and to preserve a pregnant person’s mental and physical health.

The group will lay their demands and stance on the liberalisation of the 'Abortion and Sterilisation Act of 1975 on the table at the public hearings on abortion taking place this week.

“Our republic was founded on the premise of equality. Yet, 31 years after our republic’s founding, women, girls and gender diverse persons are yet to be emancipated from the shackles of colonial-era oppression.

“The Act is inherited from a white supremacist apartheid regime. It has no place in a born-free republic and was not enacted by democratically elected representatives of the Namibian people,” the group insists.

Outdated law

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

The group further calls on government to provide free abortion services at public health institution and to grant abortions when contraceptives have failed or when the pregnancy will affect the pregnant person’s socio-economic situation.

The group believes that 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.

“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 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.”

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said he has not seen this petition and therefore cannot respond.

[email protected]

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