A medical Director at the Eureka Health Zone in Windhoek, Dr. Matti Kimberg, has called for the legalisation of abortion in the country, saying “the current Namibian Abortion Laws are a sad and archaic reminder of a draconian and theoretic male dominated past.”
This comes despite anti-abortion lobby groups repeatedly warning that decriminalising abortion will open the floodgates for women to massively engage in the practice and that it will place women’s and girls’ health and lives at risk.
The abandonment of unwanted babies is nothing new to Namibia as the country over the years has seen an increase in baby dumbing cases since 2010.
Kimberg, a Gynaecologist & Obstetrician, said this in a letter addressed to The Patriot, in reaction to a news article that appeared in this newspaper earlier this month regarding government’s call on mothers who do not want their babies to rather leave the babies in the care of government instead of dumping them.
Kimberg said as a gynaecologist he is faced to deal with the problem of unwanted pregnancies, septic and illegal abortions on a daily basis.
He regards himself as an “anti-abortionist who was mugged by reality”.
Kimberg said he has had first-hand experience with lives that have been left devastated or even lost through unwanted pregnancies that do not fall within the scope of Namibia’s laws determining when a pregnancy can be terminated legally.
He thus brought forth a recommendation towards the already established Namibian Abortion Laws, needing to be revised in light of contemporary ethics, thinking and respecting women’s rights.
“I do not want to enter arguments with the anti-abortion lobby, or religious beliefs but the majority of civilised countries make allowance for women to have a choice on whether terminating a pregnancy that are at least up to three months” he said.
The reviewing of Abortion Laws in no way minimises the need for better sex education and contraception advice that start in schools and is available as a government service but this education should respect a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom” explained Kimberg.
He further cautioned that unwanted babies will always remain a problem where there are no readily available adoptive parents.
“The alternative is institutionalised care which can have disastrous long term effects on the person both emotionally, intellectually and developmentally as has been shown by studies of such institutions, one of them being in Romania” Kimberg highlighted.
Kimberg noted that since each pregnancy has a significance for both the mother and the potential offspring, “I would hope in the present climate of gender equality and fairness that Women Rights Groups would take up the struggle for their sisters in perilous situations, to work on a more humanitarian solutions for these problems, because it is about time that sanity prevailed in society” he said.
A report recently published by the Namibian Press Agency (NAMPA) revealed that every month about 40 babies and foetuses are dumped or flushed down toilets in isolated areas.
According to a 2010 United Nations Children’s Fund 2010 (UNICEF) report on children and adolescents in Namibia, it was revealed that approximately 13 dead babies are discovered monthly at the sewage works in Windhoek.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) recorded 7 335 abortion cases between April and December in 2016 with only 138 being of a medical nature while the remaining 7197 were illegal street abortions.
With baby abandonment and illegal abortions being very common among women in Namibia, the country’s need for alternative measures such as the legalisation of abortion has heightened.
Globally, 40 per cent of women of childbearing age live in countries where abortion is banned, highly restricted or otherwise inaccessible.
Unsafe abortion accounts for 13 per cent of maternal deaths, resulting in 47,000 women and girls dying each year.
Abortion and Sterilisation Bill
The Abortion and Sterilisation Bill was first issued for public consultation in 1996 which sought to replace the Apartheid South African Abortion and Sterilisation Act of 1975, and sought to extend the legality of abortion to instances where the procedure can be requested on demand within a specified time frame.
However, the Abortion and Sterilisation Bill was ultimately withdrawn by Dr Libertina Amathila, in 1999 in the face of what was at the time seen as widespread public unhappiness over the government’s intention to legalise abortion.
At the time of its tabling and until it was withdrawn the Bill enjoyed the support of Namibia’s respective health ministers for two main reasons. In the first instance the Bill was seen as a solution to the baby dumping issue, which was already a common phenomenon at the time.
Secondly, the Bill sought to provide a safer alternative to illegal abortions carried out with often serious health consequences. The Bill was also supported by Sister Namibia, a local civil society organisation that advocates feminist and women’s rights.