Baby dumping linked to abortion ban
21 October 2021 | Local News
The Namibian police probed a total of 71 reported illegal abortions and 124 cases of baby dumping between the first eight months of the years 2018 to 2021.
In 2020 alone, police worked on 50 reported cases of baby dumping between January and August.
Between January and August 2018, 17 cases of newborns abandoned by mothers were reported, followed by 35 cases during the same period in 2019, and 22 so far in 2021.
In 2018, 18 illegal abortions were reported to the police, followed by 29 in 2019, 17 in 2020, and 7 in 2021, all between January and August.
In contrast, the number of legal abortions were substantially lower.
In 2019, five legal abortions took place in Namibia, six in 2020, and two so far this year. Safe and legal abortions can be obtained where a woman can prove rape or incest, or that the pregnancy risks her life.
However, pro-choice advocates have repeatedly warned that women and girls face substantial roadblocks to prove their cases and to be given the green-light for a legal abortion.
Major general Anne-Marie Nainda of the Namibian police force explained that to assist a victim of rape or incest to procure a legal abortion, a case must be registered, a medical exam is required and two medical doctors must verify the grounds for a legal abortion. Then an investigation is pursued, and finally the matter is put before a magistrate for a decision.
Dianne Hubbard of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) said there is no doubt that Namibia’s high levels of baby dumping are linked to the country’s restrictive abortion law.
She highlighted that this was already recognised by parliament 11 years ago.
She referred to the 2010 “Report on the Motion of Baby-Dumping in Namibia” by the National Assembly’s Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources, Social and Community Development, who at the time stated that “the law on abortion should be re-examined to see if the grounds for legal abortion could not be expanded”.
Hubbard on Wednesday underlined that Namibia’s current law does not prevent abortion, only restricts access to safe and legal abortion for women with the least resources.
“Women with means can buy morning-after pills or travel to South Africa for a safe and legal abortion. Women without means are pushed into continuing unwanted pregnancies or having abortions by unsafe methods.”
Hubbard stressed that international statistics indicate that more abortions take place in countries with restrictive laws on abortion, where lack of reproductive choices affect contraceptive use negatively and women’s reproductive choices are limited.
Hubbard noted that “although some of our staff members oppose abortion on moral or religious grounds, we believe that the decision is a matter of personal conscience which should not be mandated by the law in the absence of any scientific or human rights-based consensus on the issue.”
She warned that in a secular state “purely religious views cannot be imposed on the public by law”.
Nainda said while the police are not taking a stand on the issue of legalisation or non-legalisation, applying the law as it stands on abortion and concealment of birth is difficult as it is inherently a complex crime to detect and prove that is linked to numerous unique and widespread socioeconomic and educational challenges.
She said the Namibian police suggest that any law reform should include improved access to family planning, continued action against gender-based violence and gender inequality, as well as provision of information before a decision on abortion is made.
The LAC agreed that a liberalised law on abortion should be coupled with comprehensive efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies and improve sexual and reproductive health education and awareness, in addition to improved access to contraceptives and information on alternatives such as adoption.