Lawmaker pushes for easier access to safe abortion Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi

 Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected] 

HWANGE Central MP, Mr Daniel Molokele, ignited a fiery debate in Parliament last week over the country’s Termination of Pregnancy Act, enacted in 1977. 

Mr Molokele called for a complete repeal of the law, citing its violation of the Constitution’s promotion of gender equality and placing women in dangerous situations. 

“We have a law called the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977. It is one of the oldest laws in this country that is long overdue. It does not need to be amended, it needs to be repealed. It is possibly violating the Constitution of this country in terms of the clauses that speak to the promotion of gender equality,” said Mr Molokele.

He cited significant empirical evidence demonstrating a high prevalence of pregnancy termination, particularly among high school and university students.

“At a community level, women are not being given a choice. Once you fall pregnant, you have to bear the consequences and this excludes a lot of women from having a second chance in life. It is time to repeal the Termination of Pregnancy Act and replace it with a brand new Act that recognises the rights of women in this country and negates the patriarchal interest that the old Act has,” he said.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, acknowledged the need for reform, but instead proposed broadening the circumstances to allow for legal termination, suggesting that conversations were needed to update laws. 

“So you need to have a look at it and say, let us have situations where you say when the pregnancy is at this particular trimester, those in the medical field indicate that it is not safe even for the mother to terminate that particular pregnancy.

“But I think we need conversations to update our laws and ensure that they speak to who we are and what is obtaining on the ground, not necessarily to remove it outright,” said Minister Ziyambi.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act only permits abortion in three specific scenarios — endangering the mother’s life, high risk of the foetus having a severe physical or mental defect, and cases of rape or incest. 

The law also prohibits unauthorised assistance with pregnancy termination and charges must be the standard fees charged by the institution. 

Abortion numbers have increased with desperate women turning to unsafe alternatives, such as illegal abortion pills and herbs, placing their lives at risk.

The law also prohibits unauthorised assistance with pregnancy termination. Medical professionals and hospital staff cannot be involved in illegal abortions. 

The debate surrounding the Termination of Pregnancy Act puts the spotlight on the ongoing struggle for women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. 

Statistics paint a grim picture of abortion in Zimbabwe. In 2021, Dr Ruth Labode, former chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, reported a rise in illegal abortions, with numbers jumping from 60 000 to 80 000 annually. 

Backyard abortions by unregistered midwives or even de-registered or corrupt doctors become affected women’s only recourse. 

The situation worsens with street vendors peddling illegal abortion pills and herbs, preying on women’s vulnerability with false assurances of safety.


You Might Also Like