Rwanda moves to remove court order for abortion

KIGALI –  A draft law currently sitting before parliament is seeking to crap the requirement of a court before one is allowed to abort.

Instead of a long process to procure a court order, the applicant will just need a ministerial order which is less bureaucratic.

Currently, anyone seeking an abortion is expected to submit to a doctor an order issued by a competent court recognising that pregnancy is the result of rape, second degree incest, or forced marriage

With the new proposed law, physicians will be guided by a ministerial order to be issued by the minister for health.

“Abortion is carried out by a recognised doctor. Requirements to be fulfilled before a doctor carries out an abortion are determined by an order of the minister in charge of health,” Article 140 of the draft Penal Code reads in part.

The proposed Penal Code also includes procuring an abortion for minors among legal exemptions which some say could come in handy in addressing the teenage pregnancy menace.

The proposed Penal Code provisions for abortion are expected to reduce the number of unsafe abortions.

World Health Organization statistics indicate that annually, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion with nearly half of these procedures,–about 20 million– unsafe.

About 68, 000 women die of unsafe abortion annually making it one of the top leading causes of maternal mortality. It is further estimated that of the women who survive unsafe abortion about 5 million end up suffering from a range of long-term health complications.

The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion,  Espérance Nyirasafari, was quoted by the New Times Rwanda that the proposed amendment is in response to challenges that women and girls face due to the current Penal Code.

“It will be easier because it will be between a lady and a professional doctor. It will be done quickly as opposed to when it required a court order. I think this is a good proposal,” Nyirasafari said.

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