Zim Abortion Law Obsolete

THE abortion law in Zimbabwe is archaic and colonial as it ignores the mental and socio-economic wellbeing of women, a Right Here Right Now Consortium member has said.
By Kudakwashe Pembere in Gweru
Katswe Sisterhood Programs Manager Advocate Debra Mwase explained to journalists at a media workshop in Gweru that Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1978 was imposed on Zimbabweans under the Victorian culture. She said in the pre-colonial era abortion was regarded as a private matter which did not involve traditional courts. Mwase noted that then, traditional medicines were used to induce the abortions.
“It’s basically colonial hangover that we have and yet we if we so much want our sovereignty why are we not clamouring for our sovereignty in terms of these colonial laws,” she said.
She added that Western countries including Britain have since abandoned the Act in respect to the preservation of women’s health.
“The termination of pregnancy act is part of our colonial legacy and our colonial laws were largely influenced by Victorian values which the West has already abandoned because they have seen the harm that may come if we don’t give women the choice. And if women don’t enjoy fully their rights because they might do it clandestinely and unsafely and we have more women dying,” Mwase said.
Mwase also said the Act has some shortcomings which sees it not accurately defining some terms.
“Current abortion laws provide a narrow definition of health by excluding mental health and social wellbeing.
“The act defines unlawful sexual act limited to rape, incest and sexual intercourse with a mentally impaired person. There are many examples of unlawful sexual intercourse for example sex with a minor. So what happens to those children is that t normally they are asked to carry the pregnancy.
“There are circumstances when it is lawful terminated pregnancy. So the criminal code criminalizes women who unlawfully terminate the pregnancy. So abortion is in Zimbabwe is not illegal but criminalized,” she said.
She also noted the limited service provision to state health institutions which include provincial and district hospital where it can only be performed by a doctor.
“Private institutions cannot offer the service so you have to go to the state owned institutions. So at primary healthcare institutions there are no doctors. They can only be found as you go up the ladder within the health system. So for most people the closest accessible health facility is the primary health care centres. I think for most of us like growing up, the clinic was where they solved my issues.
“Like for most people I grew up with the clinic dealt with them until they died. They only went to the hospital to die. But they were born at a local clinic. All your care for the under-five was at the local clinic. When pregnant you delivered at the local clinic. So these are the centres available to people.
“For example there was a case in Budiriro where a woman trying to abort failed. She went to the clinic for post abortion care but was told they did not offer that.
“She was told to go to Harare Hospital and was advised to get an ambulance requiring ZW$140. She didn’t have that kind of money. She eventually went home and started having sepsis, bleeding and eventually died. So this is what this act is presently delivering on women,” said Mwase.
She added the abortion law should ensure procedures are not cumbersome and expensive for some for those in poor settings.

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