ZIMBABWE – Lawmaker pushes for easier access to safe abortion

The Zimbabwean MP from Hwange Central, Mr Daniel Molokele, a human rights lawyer, ignited a fiery debate in Parliament last week over the country’s Termination of Pregnancy Act, passed 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.

Speaking in the National Assembly last week, cited empirical evidence demonstrating a high prevalence of abortions, particularly among high school and university students. Molokele said:

“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 It does not need to be amended, it needs to be repealed.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. “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.”

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, acknowledged the need for reforming the Termination of Pregnancy Act but instead proposed broadening the circumstances to allow for legal termination. His proposals were rather vague, however.

Reports indicate that abortion numbers have increased, with women turning to unsafe alternatives, such as illegal abortion pills and herbs. In 2021, Dr Ruth Labode, the then-chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, and a campaigner for safe, legal abortions, reported a rise in illegal abortions, with numbers jumping from 60,000 to 80,000 annually.

The only other fairly recent news from Zimbabwe on the continuing danger of illegal, unsafe abortion that found its way into Google was an article entitled “Zimbabwean news media discourses on the intersection of abortion, religion, health and the law”. Here’s the abstract:


Even though abortion has a long history, it remains predominantly contentious due to religious, medical and legal constraints. For instance, in Zimbabwe, abortion is illegal except under limited circumstances. This has resulted in women resorting to unsafe abortion procedures, leading to an increase in individuals and groups calling for the liberalization of abortion laws. It is against this background that this article uses qualitative content analysis and rhetoric analysis to explore how Zimbabwean daily newspapers frame abortion in relation to religion, health and the law. It contends that the newspapers in question assume conflicting positions as the Chronicle largely condemns abortion while the Daily News boldly calls for its decriminalization. The NewsDay and The Herald, on the other hand, relatively tolerate abortion even though in some instances they condemn it. These findings demonstrate the active role of the news media in arguing for and against abortion to influence policy making.

SOURCES: Pindula.co.zw, 4 June 2024 ; Zimbabwe Chronicle, by Sikhumbuzo Moyo, 3 June 2024; Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 43, No. 8, 7 July 2021