Last month, Members of Parliament debated the continued government stand of keeping abortion illegal, with some calling for the total withdrawal of the article from the amended Penal Code. Sunny Ntayombya and Collin Haba took the debate out of the House into the newsroom.
I had always thought that the utterances of my MPs would be reassuringly boring and bland. I mean, they had always been, and I assumed that that would remain the status quo. Well, I have been pleasantly surprised by the whiff of controversy coming from Parliamentary Hill.
Abortion is one of the most opinion-dividing topic known to mankind. Everyone wants a say in the discussion and I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy a stint on the soapbox myself.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m all for abortion. Or maybe I should elaborate; I am for termination of child when certain circumstances are present.
The present penal law, which the MPs are attempting to make irrelevant, makes abortion illegal; in fact, abortion is actual premeditated murder if the definition of present law is to be taken at face value.
What makes it particularly sad is that, in no possible scenario can abortion be legal, unless the expectant mother’s life is in physical danger.
I’m a firm believer in looking at things in a nuanced manner: nothing should be black and white. However, some people would have you believe that something as complex as the abortion question should be seen through a pseudo-Christian/traditional prism.
Let me throw some scenarios at you that I’ve personally involved in. A friend of mine at university had a boyfriend who she was obviously having sexual relations with, because unluckily for her, she got pregnant.
She wasn’t in any position to have the child; she was in second year, her only income was the monthly government stipend of 25,000 francs and, if I’m not mistaken, she wasn’t planning on getting married to her boyfriend. So, what were her options?
Either she could take a year off school, have an unplanned child, burden her parents, and make herself a figure of derision because she would be branded a ‘malaya (loose woman.) Or, she could get rid of the foetus. She took the latter option and has now finished university, gotten a nice job and Inshallah, she’ll get married to the man of her dreams.
Now, I’m not stupid to assume that she wouldn’t have been able to do this with an infant in tow; however, I wouldn’t need to be a genius to understand that she’d have to undergo many difficulties.
Here is another scenario. There is a certain young lady I know who had to undergo the horrors and humiliation of rape. Now, I don’t know about you but if that happened to anyone I knew, I would personally drive the poor girl to the first illegal abortion clinic I could find, bribe the doctor and hold her hand as that spawn was flushed out of her system.
Yes, that may sound heartless but maybe the law should stop treating women like the ‘second class citizen’ in all this. I don’t think that the rights of the unborn child should supersede those of its mother.
How in the hell would anyone be cruel enough to force a woman to go through the pregnancy and childbirth of a product of rape? What kind of physiological state would that kind of experience leave a woman in?
I feel extremely uncomfortable speaking about women’s affairs because I feel that, many a time in Rwanda’s and the world’s history, men have taken it upon themselves to be the ‘guardians of women’s best interests’.
To understand why abortion is even illegal, according to our Penal Code, one must be aware of the historical context.
Rwanda in 1977, when the law was promulgated, was a paternalistic, Catholic nation where women were treated like small children; “they were to be seen, not heard’.
And the thought that women could control such a fundamental aspect of their bodies, by choosing whether to bear or not to bear a child, must have driven those men crazy.
The women’s lib movement, where for the first time, women demanded the right to be equal and have the final say on their bodies, was a culmination of years of struggle.
The landmark US Supreme Court case, Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal, is a decision that opened the global pro-abortion floodgates.
I’m not totally comfortable with the idea that abortion should be used as birth control tool in the same vein as birth control pills, morning after pills and condoms.
The process must be regulated and psychological assistance rendered to the women before and after the procedure to gauge their emotional state.
The fact of the matter is this; let us stop pretending that abortion doesn’t exist. It does and we should face that simple truth. So, let’s stop forcing vulnerable women into the dangerous world of backroom abortion clinics.
Let’s give them the sterile environment of a hospital and well trained doctors.