Government is reluctant to consider legalizing abortion, lest the practice clashes with the nation’s traditional values and abuse, it emerged in parliament this week.
For sometime now, the issue of legalizing abortion has dominated the political field, with some lobbyists supporting the practice, arguing it was improper for government to deny individuals the right to abort, citing unplanned pregnancies some of which are a result of immoral tendencies.
Government, on the hand, dug in its heels, saying they were protecting traditional values which abhor the practice.
Answering a question posed by Shoshong legislator, Phillip Makgalemele, the Assistant Minister of Health, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, cut a picture of a troubled man, torn between two equally important national issues, which seem to weigh heavily over his government as evidence on the ground point to increasing fatalities from backyard abortions.
“In 2009, my ministry conducted 6,397 abortions in our health facilities, the majority of which were spontaneous, meaning that they were miscarriages or early pregnancy losses,” Matlhabaphiri told parliament, further acknowledging that “significant proportion of abortions, however, were illegally induced as evidenced by a considerable number of complications that ended up in the health facilities”.
Of the patients that presented themselves to the health facilities, the ministry was unable to come with accurate statistics because the victims were unwilling to disclose whether or not the abortion was illegally performed.
The minister said that it is because of this that he could not immediately furnish the statistics for the period 2010/11 as solicited by Makgalemele.
That notwithstanding, Matlhabaphiri, who represents Molepolole North, acknowledged the significance of legalizing the practice, which has been a hot potato amongst his ruling Botswana Democratic Party colleagues, admitting the move “will significantly reduce early pregnancy deaths in Botswana”.
“By providing these services, morbidity and mortality from infections and bleeding from unsafely induced abortions would significantly decrease,” he said, but conceding, however, that “On the other hand, legalizing abortion may be seen to be going against cultural, ethical and religious norms of our society. There also exists a possibility of abuse of this service,” he concluded.