Abortion accused gets temporary reprieve

Windhoek

A Windhoek teenager who took the stand in Katutura Magistrate’s Court to answer charges of committing an illegal abortion walked off scot-free after it emerged that investigations into her case could not be finalised.

Eighteen-year-old Elias Hatutale was charged with illegal abortion after she allegedly obtained illegal abortion pills, which she apparently used to terminate a pregnancy on August 5, 2016 at her family home in Katutura.

Hatutale’s case had been postponed several times since her first appearance on August 8, 2016 for the investigative officer to be able to finalise all investigations into the case, but to no avail. During this period the accused was out on bail of N$1 000.

Yesterday Magistrate Ruben Mutuka informed the court that the case against Hatutale would be withdrawn and that she would be refunded her bail money by the State.

Mutuka made the decision after Public Prosecutor Ellen Shipena told the court that the State had not yet reached a stage where investigations have been finalised, so that the accused can stand for trial.

Shipena requested the court to simply withdraw the case against the accused, adding that Hatutale may be summoned once investigations have been finalised. The prosecutor however did not provide reasons why the State had failed in its task.

If Hatutale were to stand trial and be found guilty of the abortion charge, she could be fined an amount not exceeding N$5 000 or be imprisoned for a period not exceeding five years.

Hatutale is one of hundreds of girls and women in Namibia who attempt what are known as “backdoor abortions”. The fact that abortion is illegal in Namibia has forced girls and women to seek help from anonymous sellers of abortion pills online. The sellers promise a quick fix at a cost of N$250 to N$300 per pill to the desperate buyers.

The sellers of illegal abortion pills make a fortune from desperate women and girls who feel persecuted by Namibian law. However, for those that have money, travel to neighbouring states, such as South Africa where abortion is legal, is an easy option.

Backdoor or illicit abortions may have serious and lasting effects on the mental and physical health of a person attempting to take such a route.

January 2017
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