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Health Expert, Govt urge religious leaders to avoid misleading believers on the abortion law

By Elias Hakizimana.

As some religious leaders continue to tell citizens that Abortion is a sin in their beliefs, health experts and the government urge them to stay away from such a mindset that compromises the law on safe abortion.

Theobald Mporanyi, an expert in Reproductive Health based in Health Development Initiative (HDI) said that people should not count on faith or church beliefs when it comes to health issue.

Mporanyi was speaking to Umuseke reporter while Rwanda was celebrating the International Safe Abortion Day on September 28, 2021.

He gave this message as the side of religious leaders sometimes mislead Christians that abortion is a sin.

Commenting on the recent message of Antoine Cardinal Kambanda on twitter that informs the community that abortion is a sin, Mporanyi advises people to not count on faith and beliefs when it comes to the health issue that can endanger their lives.

Quoting the (translated) message of Antoine Cardinal Kambanda, he said: “Life is God’s gift. Respecting life is respecting God, abortion is a big sin, it is to kill a baby, it is an abomination,” Cardinal Kambanda said also by quoting the bible (Exodus: 20,13)” You shall not murder.

“He observes things following his beliefs, all that people believe is not the reality, the government did not establish these guidelines to punish the offenders, but to facilitate those who seek for safe abortion services, and none is pushed to abort.” Mporanyi said.

“What we can tell citizens is that we should not be led by the mindset of believers, rather, people should respect their lives when they faced violence. We go to the churches because they have seen us healthy, but when we are struggling with problems, when we have gone to unsafe places for unsafe abortion, when we faced trauma they do not comfort us, you go to the church because you are healthy.” He added.

The abortion law in Rwanda permits abortion in cases of rape, incest or forced marriage, and in cases of risk to the health of a woman or the fetus. Legal barriers and cultural and religious stigma, however, make it nearly impossible for women to get a safe, legal abortion in the country.

Mporanyi said that faith leaders need to change the mindset they have on the abortion law and help believers.

“They do not need to misinterpret the law, people used to misinterpret the law or any order which is established, and the law is established to solve a problem.” He noted. 

This expert said that church believers should play their role to teach the society to prevent the crime of defiling children.

He said that the government established the law on safe abortion to give rights and justice to the victims who could also lose their lives due to unsafe abortion.

Mporanyi said that the number of suicides are increasing largely due to their inability to conceive after pregnancy, yet they could be helped to have a legal and safe abortion to save their lives.

Article 125 of Law N0 68/2018 of 30/08/2018 states that there is no liability for abortion committed for the following reasons: Rape, incest or forced marriage, and in cases of risk to the health of a woman or the fetus.

This law also does not apply to only the impregnated children because every woman and girl has the right to have an abortion regardless of age.

The law states that a person who is authorized to have an abortion is a legally authorized doctor.

The law states that a child under the age of 18 who does not want to abort can make her own decision.

The applicant completes a form explaining what is going to be done, explaining the consequences and then signs it, if it is a child under the age of maturity, she is signed by the parent, guardian or representative of the local hospital where the activity is going to take place.

This law means that a pregnancy that is more than 22 weeks old is not aborted, the applicant who needs safe abortion service is advised to go to the doctor in charge before these weeks.

Unlike in the past, currently there is no court order requiring the applicant to get this service.

The woman or girl who is willingly going to apply for safe abortion service must pay for it but for the victim, the government shall pay instead.

The Executive Secretary of the Southern Province, Busabizwa Parfait, said the law on abortion was expected to protect the lives of Rwandans.

“The law was established following the existing problems at time, because some women and girls who wanted to abort used to do it unsafely, resulting to death. It required more sensitization campaigns so that people know this law.” Busabizwa said.

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