Abortion rights must be expanded

Khanyiswa Mogotsi

As a country plagued with tragic baby dumping stories and nightmare tales of unwanted pregnancies, I still do not understand why terminating a pregnancy in all cases is not yet a legal health service option in Namibia.

I have always been in support of reproductive rights. The biggest reason is that every person (man and woman) should have the right to decide what they will and will not do with their body and their lives.

If they want to get a tattoo covering the entire lower half of their face, they should be allowed to because it is their body. If they want to remove their fallopian tubes at the age of 21 because they feel like they will never want children, they should be allowed to do that. If a woman decided that she does not want to raise a child or be pregnant for whatever reason, she should be allowed to do that.

Abortions should not only be legal if there are terms and conditions attached to them. It should not only be legal women who were raped or women who experienced complications during their pregnancy to have access to safe abortions. All women should have the same choice.

Various factors might go into a woman choosing to have an abortion. These factors are valid. An adult woman can have a list of decisions and life situations that prevent her from completing a pregnancy. While counselling or a listening ear should be made available for those seeking to end a pregnancy, no generalized law should decide what is and is not a valid reason for a woman to make her own choices about her body.

People are reading this who disagree with me. Some might feel that if a woman chooses to have unprotected intercourse, she should accept the pregnancy as her punishment because “what did she think would happen?” But many people do not make the mistakes that can occur during intercourse into consideration.

Although we might have tools that help prevent pregnancy such as condoms, birth control and emergency contraception, these tools are only effective to a certain extent. Condoms can break, birth control can be ineffective, and not everyone has an extra N$100 lying around immediately after that can cover the price of a ‘Plan B’ pill.

There are numbers of younger women in our society whose parents do not give them the correct information about pregnancy, menstrual periods and sex. Pregnancy can (and does) result. The males causing these unwanted pregnancies walk away with no obligation and no changes to their lives. The girls/women left with the prospect of a baby to care for face a life that is forever changed and usually, not for the better. Ending such pregnancies early may allow the young woman to have a valuable second chance.

As a society, we need to stop treating pregnancy like this punishment that women are meant to put up with because they chose to have sex. If men are not forced to deal with the same repercussions, women should not either.

Every time I see an article about another mother leaving her newborn baby in a sketchy location, the police are always looking for the mother. The birth father is equally responsible for that abandoned baby. She was left with custody of their joint obligation. There is hardly ever a mention of the father. When the birth mother is caught, she is left to deal with the consequences alone.

The regulations that allow abortion in Namibia must be expanded. The sad reality is that though it is not legal, it still happens. These dangerous back-alley procedures are done across the country, and they risk the lives of young women. They happen so that everyone other than the besieged pregnant woman can feel good about Namibia’s “Christian values”.

We cannot make decisions for an entire country based on what we believe religiously because Namibia is a secular state. A lawmaker’s religious beliefs must not influence laws in the country. Not everyone in the country has the same religion or value systems.

Once the rules restricting when an abortion can be done are lifted, women will choose that is their right. Finally, women will have control over their bodies.

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