Rwanda: Activists Target Pro-Life Laws, Want Legal Abortions

International   |   Marie Smith   |   Apr 3, 2012   |   1:12PM   |   Washington, DC

Rwanda, the country that suffered horrific genocide when 800,000 Rwandans were killed in ethnic fighting between the Tutsis and Hutus, is under pressure to change its law on abortion. It is hard to imagine that a country which witnessed the death of 20% of its population between April and June of 1994 may now fall victim to the demonstrably false argument that abortion is needed to reduce maternal mortality. It is difficult to believe that a people who survived unspeakable bloodshed and horror will accept—or be coerced into accepting— the dismemberment of children in the womb in the name of development.

Rwanda’s abortion law has been targeted by pro-abortion organizations which have been building support among government officials for years as is the tactic in many unsuspecting developing countries. Local organizations associated with radical international organizations agitate from within to synergize with outside pressure. The local International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) affiliate— Rwanda Association for Family Welfare (ARBEF)—has been agitating for further revision of the abortion law. A representative explained in a workshop this past December, “The law on abortion has been revised but there are still a few issues that need to be sorted to create a favorable environment for young people to have access to safe abortions.”

The IPPF affiliate is working with Rwandan NGO Health Development Initiative (HDI) which has its share of international partners including the WHO, Ipas, UNAIDS, and the Global Fund. HDI launched a campaign “to address Rwanda’s restrictive abortion law, in light of women’s unmet family planning need and the negative impacts of the law on women’s health.” The result is extreme pressure for President Kagame and Parliament to abandon laws and policies that protect Rwandan children and their mothers from the violence of abortion.

Parliament announced this week that it will consider legislation to further amend the penal code which proscribes abortion to a strict life and health exception with two physicians confirming that the woman’s health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy. It was also announced that President Kakame’s cabinet had sent a Presidential Order to Parliament that would revoke the objection or reservation Rwanda issued when it signed the African Union treaty known as the Maputo Protocol, the only treaty in the world with direct reference to abortion. The reservation protected Rwanda’s pro-life law from the Article 14 that “authorizes medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus.”

In a move to ramp up the pressure, the US-based pro-abortion research group Guttmacher Institute released the first-ever national study on abortion in Rwanda , Abortion Incidence and Postabortion Care in Rwanda, along with the Rwandan ministry of health, the National University of Rwanda, and the School of Public Health. Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda’s Minister of Health stated, “Reducing maternal mortality and ill-health is a priority for Rwanda. The fact that so many women are suffering complications from unsafe abortion and that so many are not receiving the care they need is very concerning. It is clearly an issue we must address.”

The report will likely be analyzed carefully as it contrasts sharply with the UN Population Data Bank, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division’s findings on Rwanda’s abortion law which states: “…abortion is not reported to be widespread. When abortion does occur, it appears to be limited mainly to unmarried women.”

Discrepancies in data are a well-known pro-abortion tactic. Former abortionist Dr.Bernard Nathanson acknowledged using such a tactic when he helped legalize abortion in the United States in the early ‘70’s and stated it was “used throughout the western world… in order to change abortion law.” This tactic has now been exported to Rwanda.

Outward appearances indicate that President Kagame and Parliament are bowing to western pro-abortion pressure and falling for the pro-abortion tactics that require them to reverse long-standing laws that respect the sacredness of life from conception. Note:  Marie Smith is the director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.