HEALTH experts have called for unsafe abortion to be considered a public health concern by amending laws on abortion.
Zimbabwe records an estimated 80 000 unsafe abortions annually.
Speaking to NewsDay, My Age Zimbabwe director Onward Gibson said unsafe abortions were contributing to maternal deaths, infertility, among other health threats.
“There is urgent need to improve access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including contraception, family planning, and comprehensive sexuality education, which can help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and subsequently lower the demand for abortions,” he said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said restrictive abortion laws must be amended or repealed.
“In the country, as in other southern African countries, four out of 10 pregnancies are unintended or unplanned and 25% of those unintended pregnancies end in abortion,” Rusike said.
“Many women and girls are driven into the shadows because of restrictive abortion laws and a lack of clarity about their provisions. The topic of abortion is taboo within the African context and cultures, as it is not openly discussed although evidence shows that it happens frequently.”
Indications are that many women and girls are seeking abortion services in unhygienic conditions where people, who are not trained to address complications when they arise, perform the abortions.
The 1977 Termination of Pregnancy Act is the main legal document for abortion services.
“However this Act creates many challenges as it is not well known by most people who may qualify for the limited service that is permissible under the law,” Rusike said.
“Lack of awareness of the Act creates confusion and fear among women and girls preventing them from seeking safe abortion services, while the tedious legal procedure to procure the safe termination at some health institutions may also prevent service providers and others from helping them to access the service,” he said.