Bridget Mananavire 30 June 2017
HARARE – Women with unwanted pregnancies must be able to undergo safe
abortions in a move that could save countless lives in a country with high
maternal death rate, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has said.
The Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977 (Chapter 15:10) that bans
abortion in the southern African nation must be immediately repealed, the
“We therefore call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to repeal the
Termination of Pregnancy Act and remove other barriers to accessing safe
reproductive health services for women and allow women to take
responsibility of their reproductive health,” the ZADHR said in a
It said the repeal of this law is a huge opportunity to save countless
lives from preventable deaths.
Around one in 190 women in Zimbabwe die during or shortly after
childbirth, the World Health Organisation has said.
One-third of these deaths are the result of complications from unsafe
abortions, often carried out by untrained people in unhygienic and
dangerous surroundings, campaigners say.
“As ZADHR we contend that once a woman decides to have an abortion, she is
most likely going to go through the process regardless of it being
illegal,” rights doctors said in a statement.
“However, if it is illegal, she is more likely to pursue it in an unsafe
manner and end up with fatal complications. Therefore, forcing a woman to
undergo a life-threatening unsafe abortion violates her right to life.”
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) prescribes that
access to safe and affordable abortion facilities is part of the sexual
and reproductive health rights of women. The Constitution of Zimbabwe in
Section 76 guaranties access to sexual and reproductive health services
and right to life (Section 48).
“Zimbabwe therefore needs to be progressive in this regard through
enactment of legislation that is responsive to the evidence on the ground
and allow women to make choices.
“This we believe will go a long way in protecting and promoting the sexual
and reproductive rights of the women and adolescent girls, failure of
which is a violation of women’s rights to life, to health, to reproductive
self-determination and right to the enjoyment of the benefits of
scientific progress among others,” the doctors said.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa was unreachable for
comment. But Health parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Ruth
Labode said the issue of pro-choice legislation regarding abortion should
be brought to the table.
“We are having a lot of young girls who are dying due to lack of access to
safe abortion services, where they turn to backdoor methods and end up
bleeding to death,” she told the Daily News.
The repeal of the Termination of Pregnancy Act could save the country
Government spends a substantial amount a year on staff and medical
supplies to treat patients who had had botched abortions.
“We were told that 16 percent of the blood used in hospitals is used in
post-abortion case,” Labode said.
The repeal of the law could also prove significant for victims of sexual
violence and rape, by reducing the stigma and the trauma they suffer in a
country where memories of 2008 politically-motivated rape remain strong.