Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has slammed the door shut on a call to legalise abortion in Samoa.
The long serving Prime Minister has also shot down any hopes that same sex marriage could one day be allowed.
“Government will never ever accept legalising abortion for any purposes regardless,” Tuilaepa said.
“It is murder and similar to giving our women the license to kill.
“And that is absolutely against our religious Christian values, and beliefs. It’s also totally against our culture and our way of life.
“The same goes for same sex marriage. It will never be accepted by government because it undermines our tradition and our culture.”
Tuilaepa made the comments in response to a story from the Samoa Observer where the Ministry of Health is pushing to amend abortion laws. According to a copy of the National HIV, AIDS, and STI Policy 2017-2022 obtained by the Samoa Observer, the Ministry of Health believes abortion is critical especially for victims of rape and sex crimes.
“Abortion is illegal in Samoa,” the report reads. “Access to abortion services is critical to the health and wellbeing of (people living with) PLWHIV, dealing with a sexually transmitted infection, and survivors of rape and incest.
“Laws around abortion need to be amended to adequately address access to abortion for HIV positive women, and legal interventions for increasing access to Sexual Assault and SRH Services need to be developed.”
But Prime Minister Tuilaepa would not have any of it. He is adamant.
“Although I am not privy to the report containing these recommendations, it will not change the government stand point,” he said.
“I pray that this is the last time that these issues are brought to the government and my attention because it’s a useless waste of government stationary and time to acknowledge or even to respond to such suggestions.”
Tuilaepa is well supported on the streets.
“Abortion is a sin,” said Penaia Tolai of Vailele.
“According to the Bible’s Ten Commandments, it says that thou shall not kill. I am strongly against this. We live in an age of human rights but this should not be allowed. We either respect God or we don’t. And his word is clearly against such actions.”
Vitolia Stowers said legalising abortion would create other problems.
“It’s not just against the Bible,” she said, “imagine what will happen to all those young girls who will just go off and get pregnant knowing they can just have an abortion?”
Silipa Iasepi, of Tulaele, agrees.
“I don’t agree to change the law. If anything I think the law should be strengthened so that whoever is caught is jailed. We don’t want to encourage the killing of innocent lives.”
Jofi Aiomanu added: “Abortion is the same as killing. I don’t support it. This talk has to stop. Why did they want to make a baby and later end up aborting it? That’s so wrong.”
In Samoa, abortion is considered an offense under the Crimes Act 2013 Sections 111-116 in the following scenarios; procuring an abortion or miscarriage for any person by any means (instrument or ingesting drugs or toxins); person procuring their own miscarriage and supply the means for a person to procure an abortion.
The Health report however says that abortion is not considered an offense if the pregnancy is under 20 weeks gestational age; the person performing the abortion is a registered medical practitioner; the person doing the act believes the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the life or mental health of the person and the person is contemplating suicide, very young and/or was raped.
In solidifying their case to amend the local laws, the Ministry of Health’s Policy Report quoted a case law out of New Zealand of R v Woolnough, Dr Woolnough where at the trial had shown doctors need not fear a prosecution for performing abortions as long as they claimed they believed it was necessary to avert a danger to mental health. “Doctors claiming to interpret "health" within the framework of the World Health Organisations definition were on safe ground.
“For a prosecution to be successful it would require that all of the members of the jury be convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the doctor did not believe what he said he believed.”
Furthermore the Policy Report says the case demonstrated that an abortion is not unlawful if the pregnant woman was contemplating suicide or was raped.
“It is also likely the circumstances extend beyond this to situations where pregnancy is the product of an incestuous relationship and where the pregnant girl is very young.
“Arguably it extends even further to circumstances that would create significant negative emotional consequences for the woman where it is believed this would lead to a serious danger to the woman’s mental health.
“Although abortion is legal in the previous cases, access to safe abortion within the country is severely lacking, and most cases are referred overseas.
“There needs to be a legal analysis to assess the law, the interpretation, the inconsistency of case law, and ultimate population access to quality services.
“Once gaps between legality and access have been formally assessed the National HIV/AIDS and STI Policy will be updated to put forth guidelines that are first, compliant to national laws and secondly are aligned with donor regulations.”