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Emmanuel Obeid - CRN
Saturday, December 15, 2018 - 11:39
Abortion is illegal in South Sudan. But some women are still doing it illegally, putting their lives at risk. This has sparked the debate on whether the practice should be legalized or not. 
I spoke to different women and men to get their opinions on the issue.
Rebecca Chinua is a mother working as a Community Mobilizer in Nimule. She advises women to immediately visit a nearby hospital in case they have attempted an abortion illegally.
She doesn’t support the practice of abortion, but says if a woman thinks it’s necessary she should get it done by a qualified medical professional.
 ‘‘Since I was a child, I have always been against abortion. But since that child does not belong to the husband, but the rape survivor, it can be aborted’’.
Chinua says the government must do more to strengthen the current laws against abortions. She says women in South Sudan need to be more vocal about the factors that leave them with unwanted pregnancies, such as rape.
Chinua advises survivors to immediately report such issues to the police so the culprits can be caught. And to go to the hospital within seventy-two hours for treatment. 
 ‘’If the rape incident occurs like today, if should be reported within three days or 72 hours. At that stage, if its realize that there is pregnancy, the survivor should not stay home. She should hurry to the hospital immediately so that there will be steps that will be given to help the situation. The issue is that, our women are always silent after such issues occur. They should report to the hospital so that a medical personnel can check her situation and help’’
Klacko Alice Peter works as a Community Mobilizer in charge of empowerment of young girls and women. She considers abortion illegal in both the legal definition and in the perspective of the church.
She feels most girls who get abortions are being influenced by their peers and are not aware of the dangers that come with the practice.
Alice, however, thinks, girls in South Sudan need to be educated about the risks of abortion.
 ‘’Abortion is illegal and it is not good even before God, because aborting a child is similar to murder. As a Christian, I do not agree with those girls performing abortion’’.
The community mobilizer also urges the government, non-governmental organizations and parents to do more awareness building on the dangers of teenage pregnancies and abortion.
 ‘’Girls who get pregnant and decide to abort are girls who have not been taught about sexual rights. Health rights and the school syllabus does not support this. I think this is a gap we need to look into because sometimes they don’t know what they are doing. They don’t know that whatever decision they take will harm them because they feel aborting a child will put them on a safer side. They don’t want to shame their parents; they don’t want to be a disgrace to their families. Most of them are being influenced by their peers and end up messing their lives’’.
Students I spoke to at the University of Juba have mixed feelings on the subject of abortion. Some support the law of it being illegal whilst others think the opposite.
Bona Bol Deng, a student of Economics and Social Studies believes in the cultural traditions of South Sudan which says abortion is unacceptable and whoever is caught practicing it should be penalized.
 ‘’According to our African traditions, abortion is not acceptable and such act should not be tolerated by law. I object the opinion of legalizing the abortion. In case a child cannot give birth, she should be taken for operation in the hospital’’.
Lily Achola another student at the university admits that sometimes it is hard for male partners to accept unplanned pregnancies because they think they are not ready to shoulder the responsibility of having a child.
However, she believes that everyone is capable of taking care of a baby if they step up to the responsibility.
 ‘’It is written in the bible that we should not abort, because a child is a gift from God. But sometimes, you may come across a boy and a girl in a relationship and when the girl gets pregnant, sometimes the boy ends up denying the responsibility and the girl ends with no option but to abort the child.
 Sometimes both of them will agree to abort because all of them don’t want to shoulder responsibility. This action sometimes lead to death, and the boy ends up denying the girl and walks free. Most of the girls go to these small clinics to abort. It is a bad practice and is illegal in South Sudan. Plus, these girls should know that a child is a gift from God. Some have done it before and now they are regretting their actions’’.
Bona Akol is a Masters student at the University of Juba studying Economics and policy analysis. He is also the father of several kids. He says abortion should only be carried out in the case of a miscarriage or other medical complications.
 ‘’This law has not been passed yet and abortion is illegal because it endangers the life of pregnant women and the unborn kids. It is not advisable to do abortion, but it can be done if somebody is sick or in cases of miscarriage’’.
Deng Majok Deng is a first year law student. He says abortion is a crime under the law of South Sudan and anyone caught having one should be brought to justice. He says legalizing abortion is equal to legalizing murder.
 ‘’In South Sudan according to our laws, abortion is a crime. Life begins during the fetus movement the 13 to 20 weeks in which it is recognized that a life is being formed. If we legalize abortion it’s like us legalizing killing which will be a mess. Section 221 of South Sudan’s law talks about causing the death of an unborn child amounts to capable homicide meaning, killing of a human being by another human being.  A child needs to be protected during pregnancy therefore a woman should be tasked to protect the unborn child’’.
However, another student Winnie Augustino feels abortion should be legalized to protect the rights of girls and women who are victims of gender based violence.
 ‘’I accept that abortion can be done because these days young girls mature early. Some girls are 12 or 13 years and are already mature and practicing sex because they see it on TV daily. In such a situation, if she gets pregnant, her body cannot support the pregnancy and her family will have no option but to abort and save her life’’.
Winnie says teenagers are engaging in sex, even under the watchful eyes of their parents. Since unplanned pregnancies are difficult to avoid, she feels access to safe abortion should be made available.
She narrates a personal story to explain why she supports legalizing the act.
Meanwhile, the head midwife at the Juba Teaching Hospital warns girls practicing illegal abortion to refrain from it due to the damage it can cause to their bodies, including death.
She explains the health complications:
According to a UN report, more than half of girls in the country are married by age 18, and couples using modern contraception is less than two per cent. 
South Sudan has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. About 2,074 women die when giving birth every year out of every 100,000 live births.  
In 2017, the Government made a goal to focus on family planning initiatives, saying family planning is critical to improving the lives of women and girls.
This could help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies leading to abortion. But until then, hundreds of girls are still risking their lives with illegal abortions. 
Reporting for CRN I am Emmanuel Obeid in Juba.
This story was produced through the support of Journalists for Human Rights JHR strengthening media in South Sudan.

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