Updated 05/01/12 - This article originally stated that the Rwandan government had already passed the regulations that would liberalize the country’s abortion law. However, it remains unclear whether the regulations have in factpassed all the way through the legislature, and this article has been amended to reflect that fact.
KIGALI, April 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In the midst of intense controversy over a change in Rwanda’s penal code that would liberalize the country’s abortion laws if passed, a government official denied last week that abortion had been legalized in Rwanda.
While the nation’s ban on abortion has had a long-standing exemption for situations where the mother’s life or health is at risk, a change approved by the country’s Chamber of Deputies earlier this month had reportedly expanded that exemption to cases of rape, incest, forced marriage, or when the “health of the unborn baby” is in question.
The legislature is also considering lifting a reservation on a section in the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa condoning abortion in cases of rape, incest, or maternal or fetal health concerns, according to the New Times. Rwanda is a signatory to the Charter but had originally withheld its approval from that section.
In the face of criticism from religious and political leaders, Protais Muson, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs in the office of the Prime Minister, claimed that the country had not legalized abortion in comments last week reported by News of Rwanda.
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“There is no way the government can legalize the killing of unborn babies because that amounts to killing Rwandans and killing the future of Rwanda,” he said, during a Rwandan event called Accountability Day, a periodic occasion in which the Administration fields questions from the press and the general public on its recent activities.
Musoni claimed that journalists had been responsible for disseminating misleading information about the recent change, and added that abortion was still a crime in Rwandan law.
“Rwandan law continues to prohibit abortion, except under the circumstances stipulated in the Penal Code,” he said.
The comments came a week after the Rwandan Civil Society Platform, a prominent non-profit organization in the country, had condemned the proposal to revise the penal code, and appealed to President Paul Kagame not to sign it. Edouard Munyamaliza, the Chairperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said that abortion was against Rwanda’s “cultural values,” according to the New Times.