Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care chairperson Dr Ruth Labode has called for the legalising of safe abortion in-light of the high numbers of maternal deaths in the country where 16% are caused by unsafe abortions.
Addressing delegates at an HIV/AIDS advocacy workshop in Gweru held recently, Dr Labode said it was a fact that adolescent girls where indulging in unprotected sexual activities and should not be denied the right to safe abortion.
“We cannot continue denying these girls access to safe abortions yet we know they will still proceed to abort whether it is allowed or not.
“Complications of unsafe abortions include excessive bleeding and infections which lead to hysterectomy which is the complete removal of the uterus or death in worst case scenarios. So we can’t continue watching our women die from things that we know,” she said.
Within the recorded 16% of maternal deaths caused by unsafe abortions, half of these are undertaken by teenagers. A study carried out has revealed that in the rural areas 9% of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years have fallen pregnant before.
Dr Ruth Labode, who is also legislator for Matabeleland North Province has pointed out that in light of such damaging statistics it is only fair to legalise safe pregnancies. She emphasized on the need to accept the reality that teenagers are engaging in unprotected sex resulting in them having unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. In the occurrence of an unplanned pregnancy most of them tend to explore the option of abortion which is still illegal in Zimbabwe, resulting in unsafe abortions.
Government policy only provides only for post-abortion care, a policy which Dr Labode vehemently criticised saying responsible leaders should not wait to provide corrective procedures when they can provide safe abortions as is happening in other neighbouring countries like South Africa.
Former Deputy Minister of Health and Child care, Dr Paul Chimedza was however of the view that legalising abortion would only increase the number of those wanting to abort.
” Only women who fall pregnant under circumstances including rape and incest are permitted by law to abort and if you are going to take that into Parliament, some of us are going to thwart it,” he said.
The meeting culminated in clashes as members failed to come to a mutual understanding.
Abortion in Zimbabwe is illegal as provided for under the archaic Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977 [chapter 15:10], the new constitution further strengthens its illegality by taking an anti-abortion stance and stressing the need to protect the lives of unborn children.