7 335 abortions recorded in 2016
138 on medical grounds
Teenagers among leading culprits
On average 10 women treated per day
Alvine Kapitako and Selma Ikela
Windhoek-Health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku yesterday announced that 7 335 abortions were recorded at hospitals countrywide between January 1 and December 31 last year. Of these only 138 were conducted on medical grounds.
Haufiku, who called for a debate on what should be done to solve this problem, said the number of abortions committed during that period could be more as not all women who aborted revealed their acts to health authorities.
“This is the number we are aware of. Abortion is outlawed, you can’t terminate a pregnancy unless it’s medically motivated,” said Haufiku.
He noted the issue of abortion is a “controversial” one and requires everybody, especially religious groups, to think about what needs to be done to bring the situation under control.
A wider debate in the most non-biased manner is needed in order for a regulation to be passed, he said.
“It’s going to be hot but I want it to be debated – and in the end we have to make a decision. It can’t go on as it’s going on now,” said Haufiku.
The majority are teenagers and women aged under 25, said Haufiku.
“It’s a difficult situation if we report them to the police. I’m worried that we will lose a lot of them for fear of being reported to the police. I don’t believe that reporting them to the police is the solution,” he said.
Dr David Uirab, the superintendent of Windhoek Central Hospital, said reporting such cases to the police is difficult because the mothers may claim the abortion happened spontaneously, and was not deliberately committed.
“The majority will claim that it happened spontaneously or through an accident,” Uirab added.
Symptoms of abortions that are not medically induced include heavy bleeding and infections of the womb, explained Dr Shonag Mackenzie, the head of department for obstetrics and gynaecology for Katutura and Windhoek hospitals.
“Our first priority is to care for the woman. We often can’t tell if the abortion was spontaneous or induced,” said Mackenzie.
In April 2015, three maternal deaths directly linked to backstreet abortions were recorded, added Mackenzie.
“There are a lot more whose lives we are saving,” added Mackenzie. She also highlighted that some women who have aborted may never conceive again.
Dr Armas Abdul Malik Shikongo, the head of the Windhoek Islamic Centre, said there are no easy solutions to abortion “as it is a socio-morally complex matter”.
“The problem of abortion is both a moral, psychological and social problem, in the sense that there are moral, individual and social contributing factors to the problem of abortion,” Shikongo, who also teaches psychology at the University of Namibia, said.
“We live in secular society where morality has become a private matter. It is very difficult to propose religious or faith-based solutions to the problem of abortion, yet as normal human beings we cannot live in a world or society without moral and social guidance, even if it comes from legal or cultural sources,” he said.
In the Islamic faith abortion is an immoral act on the part of those who do it without any medical or life threatening reasons, Shikongo explained.
He also said abortions tend to leave many women with emotionally traumatizing and physical effects.
The former secretary-general of the Council of Churches in Namibia, Reverend Maria Kapere, who is a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said the uncompromising principle of Christianity is that abortion should not be legalised.
“The life of an unborn child is precious and sacred and a foetus is regarded as a human being,” said Kapere.
She added that many abortions result mainly when a woman is rejected by her partner, is judged by society and when she feels she is not ready to have a baby.
She added that Christians have also failed to create a loving environment where women can be cared for when they conceive out of wedlock.
“The church with other partners should create an environment where children are taken care of. This has ceased to exist due to the western culture that we have adopted,” said Kapere, adding that there are programmes to help reduce abortions in the church community “but implementation is a problem in Namibia”.
Clinical psychologist Eunice Gonzo opined that decriminalising abortion would not solve the current problem and believes that prevention is better than cure.
“If we can go with the campaign of involving sex education in our schools and become part of the curriculum, talking to boys and girls about sex, the dangers of sex and what can emanate from such acts, then we will go a long way in curbing the ever escalating abortion rate,” she told New Era.
Gonzo observed that some girls brought to psychologists’ practices have revealed that they have illegally aborted with the assistance of their parents. This is because parents prefer having their children in school rather than have them babysitting at home.
“Let the baby come out but you will find that the baby comes out and nothing was learnt and the whole psychological repercussion of abortion comes in and this child is likely to fall pregnant again,” she said.
Gonzo said most women are not aware of the psychological repercussion that comes with terminating a pregnancy.
Meanwhile, statistics from the health ministry indicate that from April 2012 to March 2015 a total of 191 517 live births were recorded.
“During this period there were 3 434 neonatal deaths which is about two percent of the total live births. And 93 maternal deaths were recorded which is 0.05 percent of the total live births,” said Haufiku.
In total 103 deaths were recorded between April 1, 2015 and November 30, 2016, added the health minister.
“The major causes of maternal mortality are hypertensive disease, obstetric haemorrphage (bleeding after delivery), pregnancy related sepsis and abortion,” said Haufiku.