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A Right to Life

There has been a recent uproar in the state of America concerning the overturn of a popular case called Roe Vs Wade which originally set a precedent for legal abortions in the United States.

The decision involved the case of Norma McCorvey known as Jane Roe who became pregnant with her third child. Jane Roe wanted an abortion but lived in Texas, where abortion was illegal except when necessary to save the mother’s life and in instances of rape. She then filed a case against the state of Texas arguing that the state abortion laws were unconstitutional. The court ruled in her favour. The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

Credit: Morningconsult

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

As many might know, abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy so that it does not result in the birth of a child and is sometimes referred to as a termination of pregnancy. Abortion is a contentious subject in our society today, though this may be so, the law in Uganda is quite firm to state that abortion is illegal. Article 22 of the 1995 Constitution provides for the right to life, section 2 specifically provides that no one has the right to terminate an unborn child except if it’s authorized by law.

Roe Vs Wade discussed the different views on when life begins. These views are varied according to beliefs, status, community, and science even today raising war between those who are pro-choice vs pro-life i.e. some believe that life begins at conception while others are of the view that life begins after birth. However, if this is the case, why would a mother mourn their unborn child? 

If the decision to reverse the case of Roe Vs Wade prevails, it will open a can of worms forcing the majority of the state legislators to review the abortion laws of the whole country. Our law illegalises abortion, except where authorised by law however it fails to outline specific exceptions. It is quite clear that the life of a person under the law in Uganda begins at conception. The Penal Code Act does not comprehensively provide for instances in which abortion may be permitted. However, it provides a defence to a person accused of any of the offences related to abortion.

A person shall not be criminally liable where the termination of a pregnancy was conducted through a surgical operation with reasonable care and skill to save the life of the mother (life endangerment). Some would argue the circumstances of each case individually. For example, would it be fair that a woman with a mental disability and a victim of rape to be forced to carry a child? It is quite hard to evaluate the situation based solely on a legal basis. Even still, the questions regarding the legalisation of abortion are quite mute here. It is clear, that abortion is illegal and its penalty extends to both the person providing the surgical operation and the person on whom a surgical operation is being performed.