A ministerial order determining the conditions for a medical doctor to perform an abortion will be out soon, a Ministry of Health official has told The New Times, saying that it is being considered with urgency.
When, on August 30, the new law determining offences and penalties in general was published in the official gazette, one of the key changes was that abortion would be a matter decided between a woman and her doctor – without a judge’s involvement.
According to the new law, abortion is performed by a recognised medical doctor.
Conditions to be met for a medical doctor to perform an abortion are to be determined by an Order of the Minister in charge of health.
But more than a month after the new law was published, this is yet be implemented.
“We are at the final stage of the Ministerial Order. It will not take long,” Gaspard Habarurema, the Communication Officer at the Ministry and Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), said.
The current law stipulates that any person who performs an abortion on another person commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than five years.
Any person who, because of negligence or carelessness, causes another person to abort is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than two years and a fine not less than Rwf300, 000 and not more than Rwf500, 000.
If abortion causes disability certified by a relevant medical doctor, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years and not more than 25 years.
If abortion causes death, irrespective of whether or not the person aborting has consented, the offender is liable to life imprisonment.
Exemption from criminal liability
However, the law says there is no criminal liability if abortion was performed when the pregnant person is a child; the person having abortion become pregnant as a result of rape; the person having abortion become pregnant after being subjected to forced marriage; and the person having abortion had become pregnant as a result of incest up to the second degree.
In addition, there is no criminal liability if abortion was performed because the pregnancy puts at risk the health of the pregnant person or of the foetus.
The law states that if, after abortion, it is evident that the person on whom abortion was performed applied for it with no legal basis, such a person is punished as a person who performed a self-induced abortion. A self-induced abortion is that one performed by the pregnant woman herself or with the help of other non-medical assistance.
Article 123 says that any person who self-induces an abortion commits an offence and, upon conviction, she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than three years and a fine of not less than Rwf100,000 and not more than Rwf200,000.