Helena Johannes

Parliament has blamed COVID-19 for its failure to debate the issue of legalizing abortion in Namibia despite the matter having been tabled for discussion during the pandemic.

National Assembly spokesperson David Nahogandja said Parliament has received two petitions of which one is for and the other against abortion in June this year.

“We only sat for two terms this year due to COVID-19, we have not sat as usual to discuss more about this,” he said.

Nahogandja said the parliamentarian committee seized with the matter will sit early next year when parliament opens to look at both petition and identify the issue.

This comes as the discussion on abortion was officially tabled by NUDO leader and Deputy Minister of Health, Esther Muinjangue, before being postponed to July.

The discussion has however never continued after the first recess of Parliament until it was reported that the National Assembly will be on recess from the 29 October 2020 until 09 February 2021.

When quizzed on why the discussion had not continued after Parliament resumed in September, Muinjangue told Windhoek Observer that it not for her to answer but noted the discussion had lapsed.

“That discussion has lapsed since Parliament was on a break,” she said.

Muinjangue previously said she is personally not for abortion however she intended to raise the matter for discussion and debate in parliament.

“For me, I have my own personal values that may not be my professional values. I do not support abortion, but we are also in an era where human rights are being highlighted. Because this is also a woman’s body, let the women have a voice and take a decision as to what they want to do,” Muinjangue previously told Windhoek Observer.

The Landless People Movement (LPM) Member of Parliament, Utara Mootu was mum on the party’s position on the matter.

“They will sit next year to discuss the issue. As a party we cannot give a comment on that.”

Already, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) Member of Parliament, Elma Dienda has declared that she would not support the motion of legalizing abortion regardless of her party’s platform or public demands.

Dienda’s position is in stark contrast to party leader, McHenry Venaani, who, in his shadow state of the nation address supported the call to legalize abortion.

Debate over the legalization of abortion in the country has gathered momentum after a petition was launched on 11 June 2020 by young Namibian women.

Currently, abortion is legal in Namibia only in cases of conception from rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger as certified by doctors. These antiquated laws are according to the apartheid –era Abortion and Sterilisation Act of South Africa of (1975). Namibia inherited this law at independence in 1990. South Africa removed that old act for their citizens and abortion is legal in the neighboring country. Namibians with means travel; regularly go there to undergo the procedure. Namibia’s abortion restrictions, in effect, only apply to those without means.