By SANFROSSA MANYINDA
THE prevalence of unsafe abortions in Kitwe and Ndola districts is currently at 20.1 percent, meaning every five women having a miscarriage or abortion, one is abortion unsafe, a study conducted by the Zambia Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ZAGO) has revealed.
According to the study, women who are more likely to have unsafe miscarriages (abortions) are those living in high-density residential areas, not married and those who do not know that there are health facilities that offer safe abortion services.
ZAGO president Swebby Macha said the firm was motivated to embark on this critical research by the findings of previous studies indicating that an estimated one in every five pregnancies worldwide ends up as an abortion, of which approximately 40% are carried out under unsafe conditions.
Dr Macha said it was revealed that women delayed to seek health care because they feared the negative attitudes from their communities and the health care system towards abortions care in general, despite it being legal.
He also said that some services were viewed as costly, with a high out of pocket expenditure, therefore impeding on their right to access quality health care.
“ For women who experienced spontaneous abortions, health-seeking delay because most women consider pregnancy complication symptoms as normal and not dangerous.The reposrt also revealed that women used various herbal medications or concoctions, sticks and sharp objects to terminate pregnancies in their communities (unsafe).
“Complications associated with abortions persist with the Copperbelt having one of the highest rates at 14%. Therefore, we conducted this research to understand the current status in terms of service provision perspectives by comprehensive abortion care providers, knowledge of the abortion legal frame work among users and experiences with abortion services. Further, we described the type of women likely to have unsafe abortions,” he said.
Dr Macha said there was needed to increase awareness on the availability and legality of safe-abortion services.
He said there was also need to seek healthcare for any spontaneous abortion-related discomfort experienced during pregnancy, while ensuring the provision of medical supplies and free services at all levels of care, therefore ensuring protection from out-of-pocket expenditures during abortion care-seeking.
According to SDG 3.8, Attaining Universal Health Coverage entails the provision of services to all that need them, in the right packages and without financial strain.
In Zambia, the abortion law known as the termination of pregnancy act was passed in 1972 and allows for a woman to have a termination of pregnancy or abortion in a prescribed facility with a trained provider given the right circumstances. There are a number of legal frameworks that support provision of abortion services in Zambia.
These include the Republican constitution, the Maputo protocol, the Penal code and other documents developed by the ministry of health.
Although there is scanty aggregated data on the incidence of abortions in Zambia, in a research done about 15 years, unsafe abortions were estimated to account for 30% of maternal mortalities and 50% of gynecological admissions to the University Teaching Hospitals.