The New Times, Rwanda

Late last week The New Times reported the arrest of two women, Clemence Yezakuzwe and Chantal Nyirandengayobagira, after they underwent abortions.

These two women, aged 25 and 21 respectively, have fallen foul of our criminal code which makes abortion illegal unless it’s carried out to save the life of the mother, and is supervised by a trained medical officer.

Ms.Nyirandengayo-bagira is currently in hospital after she developed complications and started hemorrhaging profusely.

Police in her home district of Rutsiro, say that she will be charged with murder as soon as she’s back on her feet. The same fate awaits Ms. Yezakuzwe.

The two have differing reasons for undergoing the dangerous operation; Nyirandengayobagira because her husband had abandoned her and Yezakuzwe says she simply wasn’t ready for a baby.

We cannot doubt that they indeed participated in this illegal activity; however I cannot simply say “they broke the law, they deserve the wrath of it”. I find the law itself harsh, unenforceable, mistaken and morally wrong. 

Abortion is frowned upon in so many countries because of the belief that human life begins at conception.

So, in other words, as soon as the egg is fertilized and attached itself to the uterine walls, human life has begun. A life that must be protected by the society it finds itself in.

But this begs a few questions that I feel must be answered by our law makers.

Does life really begin at the moment of conception? Or at some other period later on, is it in the second trimester or just in the third?

Presently Rwandan law does not make this distinction and as a result abortion can be exactly what a judge and prosecutor think it is.

This is extremely dangerous especially with the increased use of the Morning-After pill. This contraceptive, used not later than three days after unprotected sex, induces a miscarriage.

Women who use this pill, which is readily available in Rwandan pharmacies, to stop them getting pregnant are, at least according to Rwandan law, if it’s followed to the letter, guilty of abortion.

The new criminal code, which has still not been passed by the Parliament, has to carefully define exactly what the criminal definition of ‘abortion’ is.

To keep it ambiguous is dangerous and will put women in unnecessary collisions with the law.

From time immemorial abortion has been part of the human experience and, while it’s been frowned upon for just as long, it’s never become an outdated practice. There, surely, must be a reason for this.

Carrying a baby to term, giving birth to it and then raising it is hard work. Once that choice is made one’s life is forever altered, your life now revolves around another human being who is helpless without you.

That kind of responsibility is huge and should not be taken lightly and if a woman, for whatever reason, feels that she’s not able to handle it, who are we to tell her that she must? Are we punishing her because she dared have sex?

When one realizes that most of our laws are made by men, living in patriarchal societies, I begin to suspect that controlling female sexuality is the hidden goal of these anti-abortion laws.

While we might pretend that we are protecting the interests of the child, are we really? How is it in the best interests of the child to be raised in a household that doesn’t love him/her? Or simply can’t cater for its needs?

Raising a child in a loving household is hard enough; imagine doing it after your husband has abandoned you? Are we to further punish women because they aren’t able or ready to have a child? Where is our compassion?

What does it say about my society that a woman is dragged from a hospital bed to a jail cell?

In this religious nation (to think otherwise is silly) legalizing abortions will probably cause a big fuss. But to bury our heads in the sand and refuse to see that abortions are happening all the time, is irresponsible.

Why not get off our moral high horses and make sure that our precious women have the best medical care they can get? That would be the Christian thing to do.