Thursday, May 6, 2021

Will legalising abortion help thousands of women?

Prudence, a beautiful 22-yearÔÇôold unemployed girl of Tsolamosese took one too many ‘poisons’ the past three months which resulted in a one night stand with Kebitsamang. To the best of her knowledge it was a protected encounter, for she recalled that they bought TRUST condoms at Choppies before the ordeal.

Nevertheless, the morning sickness frequented her until she decided to buy a pregnancy test package, and sadly after testing, she discovered that she was pregnant. As if that were not enough, the man she had committed this unholy act with turned his back on her and started ignoring all her calls. Feeling having been pushed to the edge, she decided to go to a backyard abortionist, which was followed by two weeks admission at Princess Marina Hospital Gynecologist ward. It was also in that same month that her cousin was buried two years ago following the same experience.

Botshelo, a 17-year-old student at Mogoditshane Senior Secondary School often had excessive fun under various big trees in the peripheries of Gaborone with Tuba- a divorcee whose Toyota Altezza car’s music system drove her crazy. Alcohol, weed and sweet nothings spiced their every session until she found herself weak to near death; alone, seeking help at Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) premises at Phase four. Since then, Botshelo has resigned herself from fooling around with male persons.

Such sad endings and a continued rise in backyard abortionists have compelled Assistant Minister, Botlogile Tshireletso to advocate for abortion legalisation in Botswana. She reasoned that Batswana should stop hiding behind religion and culture and address the situation head on. She said the large number of illegal abortions which result in the death of women is a cause for concern.

A report from the Ministry of Health indicated that abortion is the lead cause of maternal deaths in Botswana. Will legalisation of abortion help address the situation? How?

“Almost every day we receive reports of sexual violence. The sad thing is that it committed on minors. School going children are used by adults. Incest is committed. Some cultural practices also play a role in this vice. You may find that rape is also rampant but it is under reported, especially when committed by relatives. That is why there is lots of school going children who fall pregnant. It is unfortunate that while family and cultural status are protected, the poor minors’ future is doomed,” said Gabalape Tauejele, Head Counselor at Women against Rape, a Maun-based Non-Governmental Organisation battling Gender Based Violence.

Despite bemoaning the sad situation, Tauejele would not advocate for the legalisation of abortion in the country, saying it would encourage recklessness and further jeopardise women’s health. He, however, emphasised the importance of victims of violence, including rape, to utilise the current legislation which allows termination of pregnancy in rape victims and minors.

A Programs Director at Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) Kabelo Poloko said he and his association promote the use of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“We have to research to find out why those people commit abortion. What is obvious is that those people experience very difficult situations and emotions to commit abortion. We should really be very much concerned of why in the first place they opted for such action. Why did they not use contraceptives? Do they have access to them or what? From there we have to find out if indeed legalising abortion would help alleviate the situation. We should make a research informed decision,” said Poloko.

This is not the first time that a lot of noise has been made advocating for the legalisation of abortion. In the 90s there was the same cry which was quashed by members of the society in Botswana, especially churches which pointed out that abortion was the same thing as murder. It is perhaps from this and the current disagreement by churches that Tshireletso is saying the nation should not hide behind religion.

“I would like to point it out point blankly to the Assistant Minister that God with whom she swore by the Bible and said, ‘so help me God’ when she ascended leadership after winning elections still exists. God created human beings and of their own choice, they ‘created’ religions. Therefore religion is human made while human is God made. God is the Creator and should be feared, even by ministers. Legalising abortion is tantamount to declaring murder of innocent unborn children-despising God,” said Bony Semphato a Gaborone Christian man. He said there is no way ‘murdering’ children legally can help alleviate murdering children illegally. If anything, he said it could worsen it.

A 25-year-old Catholic lady from Gabane, Sylvia Phox, said; “Abortion should not be legalised here. We should not promote the devil’s ways in our society and legalising abortion is just that.”

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