Home Zimbabwe News Ministry of Health: We will not legalise abortion

Ministry of Health: We will not legalise abortion


Ministry of Health: We will not legalise abortion. This comes after several calls have been made that the Government was letting women down in restricting conditions for one to get an abortion which has led to an estimated 80 000 plus illegal terminations taking place in the country annually. In an interview, Director Family Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Bernard Madzima said they were not duty-bound to make such calls of legalising abortion.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care says it will not lobby for the amendment of the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977, saying civic organisations and interested stakeholders need to take up the initiative and bring it to them if need be.

“That discussion (legalising abortion) has to happen and people are saying that is what they want, so they should lobby the Ministry of Health (and Child Care). It is not the ministry that should lobby itself but the people themselves through various stakeholders who must lobby ministry so a Bill is drafted which will be sent to Parliament for consideration. It is up to civic society, it is up to the different stakeholders to say this is what we want and they take it to the minister who will then have to draft a Bill.”

Dr Madzima, however, said the issue was under discussion at various levels.

“The issue of abortion services in Zimbabwe is an issue under discussion at various levels, in Government, MoHCC, civic society and everywhere. People are talking about it. The issue really is that our laws are there but are restrictive, and even those who are said to qualify to get the abortion services still fail to access those services despite being granted,” he said.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977 makes abortion illegal except in the case of rape, incest or when the pregnancy is posing a serious threat to the mother. Subject to this Act, a pregnancy may be terminated (a) where the continuation of the pregnancy so endangers the life of the woman concerned or so constitutes a serious threat of permanent impairment of her physical health that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to ensure her life or physical health, as the case may be;

or (b) where there is a serious risk that the child to be born will suffer from a physical or mental defect of such a nature that he will permanently be seriously handicapped; or (c) where there is a reasonable possibility that the foetus is conceived as a result of unlawful intercourse.

However, it is a long and tedious process before this can be successfully done leading to most pregnancies failing to be terminated on time and women giving birth to children from rape and incest. Dr Ruth Labode, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health Chairperson is on record saying the act is outdated and must be accommodative of the choices of women and their health.

Dr Madzima further said it was important to see the relaxation of the restrictive law on termination of pregnancy.

“So that is the discussion we want to have to sort of lighten laws for those who are eligible for abortion within the context of the current law. The other issue now is then to look at how we can follow how other countries that offer abortion on demand in places like South Africa and Zambia,” he added.

According to Zimbabweans National Guidelines for Post Abortion Care, it defines abortion as spontaneous or induced termination of pregnancy before 22 weeks gestation or less than 500 grammes foetal weight. Unsafe abortion is then defined as the termination of unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking minimum standards or both.

A study was carried out in 2016 by the Ministry of Health and Child Care together with the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Science-Clinical Trials Unit and the Guttmacher Institute on New York in USA to examine the cases of Post Abortion Care (PAC) in Zimbabwe.

The study revealed that approximately 66 847 induced abortions had taken place which translated to a national rate of 17,8 abortions per 1 000 women aged between 15 and 49 and in reality, the abortions ranged between 54 000 and 86 171.

In 2016 alone, the study also revealed from PAC facilities that 40 percent of the pregnancies were unintended and a quarter of the pregnancies ended in abortion. Traditionalists however say they will not support wilful termination of pregnancies by women who have the ability to control as and when they can conceive.

“Life is sacrosanct and therefore it is something that we respect, life starts at conception and that is what matters, life has no size, we don’t have small and big life. When there is no extenuating circumstance it is not right to terminate. When you begin to place less value of that life you are carrying for no apparent reason then there is a problem.

If one is at university, they must rather use contraceptives so that they do not have unwanted pregnancies. Do not allow a life to form inside you only to remove it, you become a murderer,” said Mr Pathisa Nyathi, a cultural activist and historian.

Source – Sunday News

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