In Rwanda, girls below 18 years now have a right to terminate a pregnancy before it is 22 weeks old – a new law has been gazetted to the effect.

A ministerial order N°002/MoH/2019 issued on Monday details all necessary requirements to enable a physician to perform an abortion.

This ministerial order is pursuant to the constitutional provisions articles 120, 122 and 176.

The new ministerial order is also in line with article nº 68/2018 gazetted on 30/08/2018.

Clause 6 in the new ministerial order outlines what would be contained in a request on behalf of a patient seeking to carry out an abortion.

For example if the pregnant girl is a very young, the request is made by a guardian or the persons legally representing her.

This clause also provides that incase of disagreements between persons legally representing the patient, the final decision will be that of the patient.

Some of the determinant reasons to seek for an abortion include; in case the pregnant person is very young, in case the pregnancy is a result of incest (up to second cousins), in case the pregnancy is a result of rape and also in case the pregnancy was a result of forced marriage.

Also a patient may seek abortion if the pregnancy poses a health risk to their lives.

However, clause 11 of this ministerial order provides for cautions against anyone seeking abortion.

The pregnant girl seeking an abortion is not required to prove anything about her reasons for seeking this abortion.

But after the abortion is carried out and it is discovered that the reason provided was false, the girl will be prosecuted by the existing laws.

For example if anyone legally representing the girl proves that the girl’s pregnancy resulted from rape and it is actually found out and determined that it wasn’t rape, then the girl would be prosecuted.

According to cluse 4 in this ministerial order, the abortion can only be requested for when the pregnancy is not above 22 weeks.

The ministerial order also provides that only a qualified physician working at a public hospital or recognized clinic can perform an abortion.

Shortly before the new ministerial order came into effect, President Paul Kagame, last week, pardoned 367 persons convicted for the offences of abortion, complicity in abortion and infanticide.

According to Munezero Claudine, a single mother working as a ticketing officer in Rwamagana District, told Taarifa that she was happy with the relaxed law that decriminalizes abortion.

“My cousin sister is among those pardoned recently by the head of state. She had illegally carried out an abortion and was arrested last year but now she is back home. Sometimes people need to understand the pain we women go through especially with an unwanted pregnancy,” Munezero said.

However, Patrick Mushimire, a secondary school teacher in Gatsibo district, has reservations about the new abortion law, saying it is likely to scale up promiscuity among the youth well knowing they would lie about reasons for terminating the pregnancies.

“The government should have first consulted widely with the public before adjusting the law. We already have reckless girls and boys indulging in unprotected sex and now pregnancies will scale up,” Mushimire said, adding that he wouldn’t wish any of his two daughters to get pregnant before they are mature and married.

Abortion in cases of rape, incest, forced marriage or the health of the woman or fetus has been legal since 2012, although a court and two doctors are needed to sign off on the procedure.

Parliament revised this law in 2018 to remove the requirement for a court and additional doctor’s permission.