ZIMBABWE’S termination of pregnancy laws are still very stringent despite a Unicef 2016 report which said that 70 000 to 80 000 abortions occur annually in the country, while organisations like Population Services Zimbabwe that deal with reproductive health issues say teenage pregnancies are at 25%.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Right Here Right Now national co-ordinator Tendaishe Changamire yesterday told NewsDay in an interview that while the 80 000 annual abortions figure in the United Nations Children’s Fund report was not clear whether these were safe or unsafe (illegal) abortions, the fact that the Termination of Pregnancy Act did not allow pregnant women to willy-nilly abort pregnancies meant that probably the majority of the abortions in the country were illegal.
“From the Unicef figures, it is not clear how many of those are illegal abortions, but several of them are illegal because the provisions in the Termination of Pregnancy Act provide for only cases of incest, rape or health risks to the baby or the mother as the only reasons that one can obtain a safe abortion at hospitals,” Changamire said.
“The knowledge in the community is that abortion is illegal and is a crime, and this obviously hinders access to post abortion care for young women needing the services for fear of getting arrested.”
She said there was need for a school health policy that would address comprehensive sexuality education and efficient implementation of the National Adolescent and Young People Sexual Reproductive Health (ASRH) Strategy II that will ensure youth friendly service provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services.
SayWhat programmes officer Sendisa Ndhlovu said there was need for dialogue in the country on the Termination of Pregnancy Act and to realign it with the Constitution.
“For example, the Constitution in section 76 states that no person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health care institution, and this provision may be utilised creatively in interpretation since unlawful intercourse is an emergency case. This would warrant the need for emergency treatment which includes provision of prophylaxis to prevent pregnancy and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as urgent terminations as a result of rape,” Ndhlovu said.
Ndhlovu cited the April 4, 2006 case of a female (name withheld) who was attacked and raped by robbers, and when she approached the courts for termination of the pregnancy, it took long to be granted until she gave birth on December 24, 2006. The woman had to file a case in the High Court suing the Health, Justice and Home Affairs ministers for pain and suffering endured as well as for maintenance of the child.
In Africa alone between 2010 to 2014, it is said that 8,2 million induced abortions occurred annually, raising the need for provision of quality post abortion care services to reduce illness and death from unsafe abortions.