Legalise abortion

Legalise abortion

Last week, the minister of health Hon Nkaku Kabi declared that the Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial hospital is overcrowded.
One of the reasons put forth by the minister as being behind the congestion at the national referral hospital is the high number of teenagers and young women who have been admitted after undergoing backstreet abortions.

To corroborate the insinuation by the Minister, just last week, a radio program at Molisa ea Molemo aired the dilemma of a Teyateyaneng lady who found herself stranded at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial as she had no clothes and no money to pay the hospital. The distraught lady narrated that she had tried to commit suicide because of an unplanned pregnancy. The father of the unborn child had dumped her. She had resorted to an illegal abortion.

The above incidences are just a few examples of the gloomy picture that depicts what abortions are responsible for in our societies. In Lesotho abortion, except medical abortion as stipulated in the Penal Code, is illegal.

I believe it is time that we introspect as a country if the current status quo regarding abortion is still serving our best interests as a country. Here I am particularly referring to the best interests of the girl child and young females. The Child Protection Act, 2010 (commonly known as CPWA), Section 11(6) states that a child has a right to sexual and reproductive health information and education appropriate to his or her age.

The implication here is that suitable knowledge on sexual and reproductive health should be availed to children. Unfortunately it seems the stipulations of the CPWA are not necessarily implemented due to cultural restrictions. Research by Dr Khau, a scholar, in Lesotho’s rural schools indicates that sexuality education taught in some Lesotho schools is not helpful as it is meant to instil fear in adolescents.  This, she says, is because adolescents are only taught about the negative aspects of sex such as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS infections, unplanned pregnancies and sexual assault.

She further points out that teachers seem reluctant to teach students about sexual diversity as well as the proper use and access to contraceptives.
The same case of poor sexual education also extends to the home sphere where it is taboo for Basotho parents to discuss sex with their children.
The church is also no different as its main role is also to instil fear in adolescents when it comes to sexual activities.
Some health practitioners are also party to deterring adolescents from getting proper information on sexual and reproductive health as they ridicule and harass adolescents seeking contraceptive services from the health centres.

The lack of appropriate sexual education and access to sexual and reproductive health services could be the reason for so many abortions.
However, if adolescent health corners can be appropriately utilised for the benefit of adolescents, we may overcome some of these problems and in the process reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

Moreover, if the country could legalise abortion, the influx of teenagers and young adults who have used quacks for backstreet abortions will decline. Unplanned pregnancies are rife in Lesotho.
The Lesotho 2014 Demographic and Health Survey, indicated that 19 percent of adolescent women aged 15-19 were already pregnant with their first child during the survey.
In addition, in his speech last week, the Minister of Health indicated that Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital admits at least 15 adolescent girls and young adults per day who show signs of pregnancy termination.

The number the Hon Minister is talking about here is that of people who were able to get medical attention. I wonder how many do not get medical attention, how many die because whatever concoction they used is deadly. There is also a huge number of those that wait until the babies are born then throw them away.
I am aware that we live in a country where majority of the people are Christians and will definitely frown upon the idea of legalising abortion.
Also, some of our health facilities are run by the church and they are already not accommodating when it comes to offering reproductive and sexual health services such as dispensing condoms and contraceptives.

But the government has a duty to protect its citizens. We have preached abstinence for a long time, yet teenage pregnancy is rising. How many adolescent girls and young adults should die before we take action? Legalising abortion will not mean we are ditching our moral values.
Those that do not believe in abortion will not do it.

But legalising abortion will ensure that Tsepong is not crowded by women that attempt backstreet abortion. I also call upon the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to collaborate in the development an Integrated School Health Policy. The policy, if developed, disseminated and implemented in schools will go a long way in ensuring that we have a healthy crop of citizens as anticipated by Vision 2020.

Kelello Rakolobe

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