Observatory: Abortion, what are people really afraid of?

Thandizo Kawerama

This week, social media was set a buzz as a petition going around to legalise abortion in Namibia gained mass support. Heightening contrasting opinions online was Health Minister Shangula’s declaration that he would indeed be in support of the legalisation of abortion if rallied by women. His pro-choice stance on the matter coupled with the petition going around various platforms, was a recipe for social media to once again hop on to its favourite topic, the female body. With the Minister of Health’s support and with many Namibian women openly being pro-choice as opposed to previous years when they feared being shamed, the possibility that abortion may be legalised seems not too far-fetched.

Abortion is complicated. Arguments pro or against it come from various angles and the emotions in the conversation easily spiral into fits of rage. The topic is a taboo, however the reality is that it’s a taboo that exists very openly in our communities. There are so many emotions attached towards the idea of abortion but if we get to the root of it, all emotions around the topic are just fear in disguise. Fear for the mental health of women, fear of eternal condemnation from God, fear of being isolated from our communities, and what I think is the most prominent one, fear that women will learn that they have the right to their own bodies. It is this fear that causes people to fight so desperately for wombs that do not belong to them. To claim that the lives of unborn children are precious and that women should not ‘condemn’ themselves to hell, even when we walk passed disadvantaged single mothers and their children every day and condemn them to a life of poverty.

People do seem to give leeway to abortion when women are victims of abuse. This is problematic because this only adds to the idea that women who have abortions can only be victims, or they are just women who have gone astray from the path of ‘goodness’. They can only be victims or a lost cause, either way it is quite telling that many in our society will only ‘allow’ for abortions when the pregnancy occurred out of the control of the woman.

I personally believe that health care should be at the centre of the discussion around abortion if it is to become mainstream. The ideas surrounding the fear of women having agency over their bodies have continuously been tackled for generations on a social level. However, the legal system surrounding it still exists, and must be restructured as soon as possible by all means. Regardless of whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, the access to sanitary medical facilities should be granted to all people for all types of medical procedures.

The health and safety of all women should be a priority and abortion is part of health care. The same communities which feign anger over the idea of abortion have conveniently allowed for rules against actions previously frowned up such as alcohol consumption and pre-marital sex to become outdated. However, it is clear that what will never go out of style is deciding what’s best for women whether they are involved in the decision or not.

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