[FEATURED] HDI trains future physicians on safe abortion

Health Development Initiative, a local NGO that seeks to boost the living standards of Rwandans, has carried out an intensive practical training about rights, legal frameworks pertaining to safe abortion.

The training that was held in Kigali on August 14-15, was attended by over 40 final year medical students who have already started operating in different hospitals in Rwanda.


Although the trained students already have extended knowledge and hands-on experience on safe abortion, the training provided them with rights and legalities both for the patients and health care providers when it comes to safe abortion practices.


Novella Mutoni Shema was one of the trained medical students from the University of Rwanda. Although she already had learned about abortion, she told The New Times that the training made her think more about the rights of adolescents to safe abortion and access to contraceptives.


“Now I understand that there is more needed than the laws when it comes to safe abortion and adolescent. As a future health care provider, it is very useful and important to be aware of them,” she said.

Fidele Mutoni, lawyer at HDI who presented a session on laws and charters about safe abortion thinks that for future physicians to able to deliver safe abortion services properly, they need to understand well every perspective about safe abortion.

“We still have issues today because abortion is still a taboo given our socio-cultural background, and I think these medical students should be the first to understand thus be able to deliver better abortion services in the future,” he explained.

The Rwandan law provides that a woman is allowed to terminate a pregnancy of up to 22 weeks under 5 conditions that include the pregnancy being a result of rape, forced marriage, incest, or if the mother or baby are at health risk.

Slightly over a year after Rwanda changed the law on abortion, the number of women seeking to carry out the procedure appears to have increased.

HDI only has assisted up to 154 women who approached them via their toll-free telephone lines inquiring for safe abortion this year (Jan-June 2020).

Understanding stereotypes and social perception about abortion

Dr. Leo Bonfils Muhirwa, an experienced gynecologist who was one of the trainers, is well aware that the students, being in their final year, already know about safe abortion. He however saw the need to train them about popular stereotypes and make them revisit their own beliefs on safe abortion.

“One of the most concerning problems about safe abortion is stigma and misconception that comes with it. We reminded them that their responsibility is to help people, not to judge them based on their beliefs,” he explained.

Dr. Kagaba Aflodis, Executive Director of HDI, in his remark to the trainees, emphasized that unsafe abortion is one of the leading death causes of thousands of women and criminalizing it makes it worse because they will find ways to circumvent the law.

“As health care providers, the goal is to save lives and these training sessions were given to help you fully understand your responsibilities to save lives,” he explained.

He added that the initiative is working to train more health care services providers and gynecologists in near future about safe abortion. 


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