The debate on whether to legalise abortion has gained momentum following a recent study by the Ministry of Health and other partners, which showed that the national abortion rate is 25 abortions per 1,000 females aged between 15 and 44.
Annually 60,000 pregnancies are terminated and the majority are considered unsafe, with 40 per cent leading to complications, according to the study.
The debate is very emotive and polarising the world over. It is no surprise that even in Rwanda, pro choice and pro life arguments will be advanced passionately.
People oppose legalising abortion on several grounds including deeply held and cherished religious beliefs. Many contend that abortion amounts to termination of life.
However, some pro choice advocates contend that women have an inalienable right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy or terminate it.
In Rwanda, abortion is only allowed when the pregnancy can endanger the life of the mother; when she conceived out of rape; when the unborn child’s father is a family member or relative and the abnormality of the unborn child.
The debate is a healthy one given the overwhelming number of abortions that are unsafe as a result of it being illegal.
However, it is important to note that these high numbers of unwanted pregnancies are a pointer to something more disturbing: That many do not practice safe sex and there is little adherence to family planning methods.
It is important that as the debate goes on, vigorous efforts towards promotion of family planning and adherence to condom use both as a contraceptive and safe sex method is accelerated. This is vital in not only curbing unwanted pregnancies but also to fight against HIV.