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By Bryant Kairugaba | 16 April 2019

The recent adjustment in Rwanda’s stand on abortion speaks volumes. 367 women who were previously jailed for ‘offences of abortion, complicity in abortion and infanticide’ were recently freed following a presidential pardon; a move hailed by Women’s rights activists as a positive step for reproductive rights in the country in compliance with the Maputo Protocol. For a country where abortion was criminalised in all circumstances, the turn around begs the question… why the sudden change in perspective?!


Following the recent revision, Rwanda’s Penal code which previously stipulated that a woman had to obtain authorisation from a court of law if she wanted to undertake an abortion is now being ammended to provide that an abortion can be carried out after a doctor’s decision. Abortions are now permitted in cases of rape, incest and risk of maternal or infant mortality. This is as a result of a several year’s campaign by several civil society organisations to cut down on the bureaucracy involved in obtaining abortions. One such organisation is the Heath Development Initiative; a local NGO in Rwanda which has been advocating for the decriminalisation of abortion since 2009 and their reason for this is that, ‘abortion is a health care need not a luxury’. According to Asia Russell, Executive Director of the Health Global Access Project, ‘Rwanda is responding to the public health and human rights crisis that is created as a result of criminalising access to abortion’. One marvels at the double standards here as killing of babies is in no way viewed as a human rights crisis.

This is not the first time Rwanda has adjusted its law on abortion. The first revision expanded the grounds for abortion but Rwanda was faulted for having complied with its minimum obligations under International Human Rights Law but imposed obstructive administratitive barriers which prevented women from obtaining access to legal abortions.

An abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. This is a public matter because abortion is a permanent decision that has profound and lasting social and psychological effects which manifest as lifelong feelings of guilt, grief, depression, self-hatred, anxiety, anger and potential substance abuse.

Granted, rape and incest are grave violations warranting criminal sanctions but to turn on the child who is not the aggressor or the criminal and make him or her pay with their life is a grave violation in itself against a defenseless human being. Two wrongs do not make a right! If the victim is not even allowed to kill the rapist, why then should the State condone killing of the child???

Biblically, as well as biologically, the unborn represent human beings with full personhood and there is no debate in the medical community as to when life begins. Life begins at conception (a distinct point in the reproductive process) and as such personhood can be recognised at inception. The result of conception is known as a baby and therefore every successful abortion ends the life of a human being .

The justification of abortion as a matter of choice sadly trivialises the value of the unborn life. Each life is of value and God’s word speaks clearly on the value of the unborn in the scriptures. ‘Did not He that made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb’. (Job 31:15) Verse 15 gives the reason why Job would be guilty if he treated his servant as a lesser human than himself. This issue goes back to birth. When Job and his servants were being fashioned in the womb, they all had a common origin, God and as a result they had equal rights. This is Job’s key argument.

The impetus of the State should be towards the protection of the innocent, protection for the weak, respect for life, and respect for God’s creation. Abortion must be abolished and a defence of life must be given as the unborn cannot offer their defence, so it is up to us to be their voice and champions. God save Rwanda!