EXPANDING contraceptives coverage to schools and other at risk populations could reduce the number of deaths and complications as a result of illegal abortions, a parliamentarian has said.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HealthTimes on the side-lines of the World Abortion Day celebrations, legislator and former parliamentary committee on health chair, Dr Ruth Labode said contraceptive services were not getting to adolescents and young girls despite the fact that they are the most sexually active and at risk of unwanted pregnancies.
“Our biggest problem in Zimbabwe is that our family planning and contraceptives is not getting to those who need it the most. Those who are active in sex are below the age of 18, yet our law says they are children and they are not having sex, that is the contradiction, yet when they fall pregnant, they resort to illegal abortions.
“So even if the discussion is not on abortion, it comes as a package to say if we change the law and allow condoms to be distributed in schools, we might actually stop the abortions. So our mission will be to sensitize on the issue” said Dr Labode.
She added that Zimbabwe had every reason to legalize abortion following indications that not less than 50 percent of Zimbabwean women were illegible for safe abortion due to various health complications.
“We will achieve the abortion legalization partly very soon because already in Zimbabwe, abortion is partially legalised. Its just that the law has failed to come forward and say pregnancy in a woman who has hypertension is dangerous among other illnesses, so you see that 50 percent of Zimbabwean women are illegible for abortions.
“The Zimbabwean abortion law is tedious, imagine one has to go through a process that could take them at least five months to get clearance for abortion. That needs to be changed.”
According to the UNFPA, at least 70 000 illegal abortions take place in Zimbabwe every year while 20 000 women and young girls die as a result.
Meanwhile, Katswe Sisterhood Director, Talent Jumo said Zimbabwe’s abortion law was crafted in a way that bars women from having control over their own bodies.
“We are celebrating World abortion Day and we celebrate this as human rights defenders. Abortion is partially legal in Zimbabwe but it has been kept away from women, if you are to go into communities today, they will tell you that abortion is illegal because they don’t even know.
“The existing law requires a women to go and see at least two public health facilities. There are women who live in hard to reach communities. Beyond that, a certificate from the magistrate is required, how many people have access to a magistrate in Zimbabwe. The law is crafted in a way that just bars women from accessing their specific rights. The abortion law must be fully liberalized,” said Jumo.
She added that criminalising abortion has not stopped women from aborting since they just do it in backyard unhealthy surgeries.