Outlaw abortion laws,govt urged

Natasha Chakada (not her real name)  now in her late 50’s, is a Harare-based successful business lady, married with only one daughter.

Unlike most affluent women who choose to have smaller families, Chakada would have wanted to have more than one child, but circumstances have not allowed her to do so.

The story behind all this dates as far back as 1978 when she had just qualified to enroll at the then University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe).

To Chakada, qualifying to enroll at a university was a source of pride for her family, especially her father who had done everything in his power to have a first born daughter attend school and help the family out of poverty.

She was to be the bridge to take her family to Canaan- the land of milk and honey!

However, the celebrations were short-lived as Natasha discovered that she was three months pregnant- a few weeks before her scheduled date to report to the university.

For fear of disappointing her father, she decided to terminate the pregnancy and after consulting peers, she settled for the idea of using a sharp knitting wire inserted through her genital to pierce the foetus.

“I thought I followed the instructions , especially after noticing some blood stained discharge,” Ms Chakada recounted.

A few days later, when she was convinced she had successfully executed the secret abortion, she began to experience some excruciating lower pelvic pains.

When all home remedies failed, and the pain worsened, she was later rushed to hospital where her parents were informed that she was almost 16 weeks pregnant.

She was later referred to a private doctor, where it was discovered that she had sustained severe injuries to her cervix and uterus, making her vulnerable and almost unfit to carry the pregnancy to full term.

“I was advised to remain on bed rest, and close monitoring by health workers, because I was too weak to carry the pregnancy to full term,” she narrated.

This was how her dream of making it to university was shattered, and after she delivered her daughter -Lisa, her uterus was removed due to permanent damage.

When Natasha’s daughter, Lisa fell pregnant in 2003, during her final year at the University of Zimbabwe,her mother strongly advised her against terminating the pregnancy based on her personal experience.

Many women have been rendered infertile, and suffered all kinds of injuries some of them permanent and with deformities.

A maternal health consultant gynecologist and obstetrician, Tawana Ndlovu defined abortion as termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of a fetus or embryo from the womb prior to viability.

She explained that abortion could either be spontaneously, usually referred to as a miscarriage or it can be purposely induced.

“The term abortion most commonly refers to induced abortion (termination of pregnancy),” she explained.

Despite the fact that abortion is a crime, Zimbabwe records more than 70 000 illegal abortions a year. There is a clear and increasing demand for it.

Justice for Women’s Zimbabwe Director, Cozzet Chirinda has called for the Termination of Pregnancy Act to be amended to suit the current environment

“The ToP is just too old, it does not take into account the changing environment and has limited conditions on which an abortion can be done. We need a comprehensive act that puts into account issues of health, social and economical well-being of the mother and incest should include relatives within our culture,” said Chirinda.

She added that safe abortion facilities should be accessible to every woman in Zimbabwe, “Generally it should allow any women to have an abortion whenever they need it.”