Zim Progresses In Putting Abortion Act On National Agenda

ZIMBABWE is amongst  a few countries on the African continent which have made strides in discussing about the need to have a progressive Termination of Pregnancy Act (TOP) at a national level, a sign the country is warming up to the need of having an abortion friendly law, a sexual reproductive health official has said.

By Michael Gwarisa

At least 14 countries are having dialogue on the issue of Termination of Pregnancy but Zimbabwe seem to have moved a step further as compared to other countries which are currently at preliminary stages of engagement with key decision making bodies.

Speaking at the International Safe Abortion Day Advocacy round-table in Harare, SAfAIDS Programme Officer, Charmaine Picardo said even though Zimbabwe was amongst some of the countries which have ratified the Maputo Protocol on abortion which demands legalisation of abortion, more still needed to be done in addressing technicalities to the law which only permits abortion under certain specific conditions.

“Zimbabwe is a bit of a unique case, when we are looking at the 14 countries that are conducting these series of dialogue on abortion, the only two countries that are not conducting the dialogues are Comoros and Tanzania.

But with Zimbabwe, we are really a step ahead and a lot has been happening already and there has been a lot of buy in from the policy makers which is an advantage compared to other countries. With other countries, with these series of dialogues, it was actually an introduction to the engagements with policy makers, they are really starting from scratch but Zimbabwe has made a lot of headway,” said Picardo.

She added that talk around the Termination of Pregnancy Act in certain instances was mere rhetoric and governments need to do more in implementing provisions of the Maputo declaration to which they agreed to.

“If you look at mortality that is related to unsafe abortions, it’s still critically large and it’s something that our member states have taken note of and it’s something that they keep mentioning.

“However, most of it has been very rhetorical, they mention it in speeches and different platforms but when it comes to action and how we can relax some of our policies, it’s not really speaking to each other, there is a disconnect somewhere so that’s what we really need to mend and ensure the realities are speaking to the policy environment and the interventions speak to the real needs on the ground.”

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health Chair, Dr Ruth Labode said Parliament was slowly warming up to the discussion around the TOP.

Dr Ruth Labode at the Int Safe Abortion Day roundtabe

“Parliament is now slightly warming up, I am not saying we have arrived and I want to thank the Women Action Group (WAG), Right Here, Right Now (RHRN) for continuing to knock on our doors. I believe as Parliament, we are getting there.

“Why do I say parliament is warming up? In January, we will be launching a population development forum for parliamentarians which will be discussing issues around SRHR and abortion. Even the speaker said he wants to be around when we launch this forum. Yesterday (16/10/19) we were finalising our second session work plan on the health committee and there is the review of the termination of pregnancy so somehow, we are getting there,” said Dr Labode.

Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, estimated at 651 maternal deaths per 100, 000 live births. In contrast to worldwide trends of declines, maternal mortality has increased in Zimbabwe over the past 25 years.

SAfAIDS Acting Deputy Director Programmes, Mr Chrispin Chomba said majority of maternal deaths in Zimbabwe are as a result of illegal abortions and the rates are high and globally deaths have increased.

“So while it was about 4.6 million before 2014, the period between 2010 and 2014 actually saw a double of that and we recorded about 8.2 million abortions in the world and majority of those are happening in Sub Saharan Africa. The chances of a woman dying from abortion complications in Sub Saharan Africa is about 33 times compared to the developed world.

“Zimbabwe itself has not been spared, we know that Zimbabwe is one of  the countries with the lowest unsafe abortions compared to others but still they are high because we know that 17 in every 1000 pregnant women are likely to have unsafe abortion. In 2016 alone, we recorded about 65 000 plus induced abortions in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Chomba.

He added that unsafe abortions contribute to about 30% of all maternal deaths in Zimbabwe among adolescents girls and young women and Mashonaland is one of the geographic areas where high illegal abortion are recorded. Mashonaland  records 21  illegal abortions in every 1000 live-births  against a national prevalence of 17 in 1000 women.

Tendai Changamire at the Int Safe abortion meeting

Meanwhile, RHRN National Coordinator, Tendai Changamire said political will was key in speeding up dialogue around the subject of termination of pregnancy act..

The biggest lesson we learnt from Rwanda was to engage the executive and build political will so that they see value in amending or reviewing this law. We also learnt that there is need for strategic media engagement, how should we engage the media and when we should engage the media. These are very critical issues.”






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