Illegal abortions to be tackled

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Cases of illegal abortions are on the increase and posing a serious health threat to women and young girls.

Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises and other staholders are conducting awareness campaigns with the thrust to invoke women to stand up and avert abortion.

This comes after cases of abortion are rampant as some women were forced into it as a result of being sexually abused. Women Action Group (WAG) Programmes Officer Ms Maria Chiwera singled out Gender Based Violence as the major perpetrator of unplanned pregnancies, insisting it was important for women to disclose any form of sexual abuse early to avoid the vice.

She said abused women were susceptible to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, adding there was need to raise awareness on the Termination of Pregnancies Act to all communities.

The campaign will be targeted at young girls and women from both urban and rural areas across the country. Ms Chiwera said people did not have enough knowledge that if they were raped they could have their pregnancies terminated at the district hospitals.

She said it was both dangerous and life threatening to resort to illegal abortions. Societal beliefs on preservation of the sanctity of life is one of the major reason why some women hesitate to terminate pregnancies that come as a result of rape.

“Abortions remains illegal in Zimbabwe, and there are several problems associated with unsafe abortions, so we are there to educate people to stay away from illegal abortions and seek proper services of terminating the pregnancy from the health institution where it will be terminated legally in the case of the rape,” she said.

“Sexual abuse cases are high, women and girls are being raped, so we are there to make sure that your life is safe and reduce unsafe abortion related deaths and to empower women and girls to utilise the law for access to safe abortion services in the event of rape.

“We are offering the service to women and girls who do not have the resources to facilitate the process and ensure that they get the security and protection they deserve.”

Ms Chiwera said together with their partners they were working towards addressing the causes of unsafe abortions and limited access to sexual reproductive health and rights in areas such as Masvingo, Gweru, Bindura, Bulawayo and Harare.

The three-year project campaign is looking at advocating for law reform on abortion and disseminating knowledge on the Termination of Pregnancies Act and sexual gender based violence.

Illegal providers who employ unsafe procedures have a high rate of dangerous and potentially deadly complications, like heavy bleeding and infections and even death.

According to the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977, it is illegal to terminate a pregnancy unless it has been sanctioned by Government authorities, among them the court, which has to confirm that the intercourse was unlawful.

This might be in the case of sexual violence, incest or other circumstances which makes it impossible for one to give birth. Religious beliefs such as Christianity widely practiced in Zimbabwe has not made it easier for women who want to abort, where the preservation of the sanctity of life is considered to be important.

Statistics indicate that Illegal abortions still account for the high maternal deaths and complications in Zimbabwe and other African countries.

A 2016 study of the situation in Zimbabwe from experts at the Guttmacher Institute in New York, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and the University of Zimbabwe estimated that over 65 000 abortions were performed in 2016.

Most of them were unsafe and poor women were most likely to experience the worst complications. Zimbabwe has a post-abortion care programme where women who have unsafe abortions can get treatment for complications.herald

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