Monday, September 24, 2007

Zambia stalls on legalizing abortion; calls for more "discussion" on the issue

Zambia: 'State Will Let People Debate On Abortion Before It Acts'
The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
24 September 2007
link to article

GOVERNMENT will only recommend whether or not to fully legalise abortion as demanded by some health experts after the issue is exhaustively debated by members of the public, chief Government spokesperson, Mike Mulongoti, has said.

Mr Mulongoti said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that the Government would not rush into taking a position on the highly controversial issue because the matter was still being debated.

"We cannot make any recommendations on abortion now since medical and ethical experts are still debating. Let them continue debating. As Government we shall only come in at an appropriate time if need arises," Mr Mulongoti said.

He said the Government would have to go back to Parliament to amend the existing Act on abortion if members of the public strongly felt that there was need to fully legalise abortion.

Mr Mulongoti, who is Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, said Zambia had strict laws, which were still in force and could not be thrown out without following the right procedure.

Health Deputy Minister, Lwipa Puma, however, warned in an interview yesterday that legalising abortion in Zambia would mean lawlessness and would promote unsafe sex leading to increased numbers of HIV/Aids as women would be aborting freely.

Dr Puma advised those making such recommendations to consider the repercussions if the Government went ahead. He also advised stakeholders to include tradition leaders in their debates to be aware of the dangers of unsafe abortions.

University Teaching Hospital (UTH) experts in obstetrics and gynaecology last week blamed Zambia's high maternal mortality rate on illegal abortions conducted illegally by unqualified people and appealed to the Government to fully legalise it to curb such deaths.

The experts said 30 per cent of the maternal deaths at the UTH were a result of unsafe abortion and called on the Government to legalise it so that people could seek professional service.

But anti-choice activists like the Catholic Church insisted that abortion was wrong and vowed to continue opposing it whatever the justification given by the medical experts.

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