By Coloured rain.
A total of 229 women have died due to maternal mortality in the country since the beginning of the year. While some of these cases are owed to high blood pressure, late hospital admission and blood loss among others, about 16 % of the deaths are as a result of botched abortions.
Zimbabwe’s maternal mortality rate stands at 614 deaths per every 100 000 live births, a figure which is one of the highest in the region. On average seven women die while giving birth, a number that can be loosely translated to one woman dying every day due to complications during or immediately after childbirth.
Abortions are responsible for 16% of these deaths and yet owing to an archaic act enacted during the Rhodesian era termed the Termination of Pregnancy Act which makes it illegal for women to undergo termination of unwanted pregnancy with a few provisions set for special cases.
The Termination of Pregnancy act of 1977 criminalises abortion as well as assistance in the termination of a pregnancy and further stipulates that no medical practitioner or nurse or person employed in any other capacity at a designated institution shall be obliged to participate or assist in the termination of a pregnancy.
Under this act exceptions are made in cases where a woman has been raped; committed incest (in both cases evidence must be issued); 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 and also 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.
This outdated piece of legislation has led to the loss of thousands of lives each year as it does not in any way stop abortions from occurring but rather forces women to opt for unsafe backyard fixes carried out by untrained people in unhygienic conditions.
Teenagers account for a high number of pregnancies owing to limited information on reproductive information and the taboo surrounding usage of contraceptives among young people. Sexual activity among this age group is an undisputed fact and in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, their education and future are jeopardised.
With rampant corruption taking place in the country safe abortions are available for the financially able as options are available from doctors operating behind closed doors at the right price. For the ones with well-lined pockets, a trip to our neighbouring SA can ensure a safe and quick termination with the option to choose from various options including private doctors, women clinics or at state hospitals at a subsidised cost. Back home women and girls from poor backgrounds with unwanted pregnancies risk losing their lives by unsafe abortions which may include herbal remedies or being pierced by knitting needles a practice which may result in infertility.
The termination of pregnancy act should thus be repelled as it serves no purpose in a modernised society where women have the choice to decide when to have a child and the decision to abort should be a personal one granted as per demand.