Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zambia suspends Marie Stopes International from conducting abortions

By Meluse Kapatamoyo

Marie Stopes International has been suspended from conducting abortions in Zambia.

Health minister Dr Joseph Kasonde made the announcement in Zambia’s capital Lusaka today, July 25, 2012, after investigations into allegations that the non-governmental organisation was conducting illegal abortions in Muchinga and Northern provinces.

Although, Marie Stopes International Zambia programme manager Nikile Siamwiza Njovu had earlier in the week denied the allegations, Dr Kasonde said the numerous abortions conducted by the organisation were illegal as they were authorised by one doctor instead of three as stipulated by law.

Dr Kasonde emphasised that any abortions should be conducted within the sanctity of the law.  

However, the organisation will continue to provide other services such as cervical cancer screening, family planning and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

In its official report, Marie Stopes International disclosed that it had been conducting medical abortions in Mbala, Chama and Nakonde districts.

In January to May 2012, it conducted 430 abortions in Nakonde and 30 in Kasama.

Abortion is legal in Zambia provided it is done within the laid down conditions of the law.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act is the principle legislative Act on the termination of pregnancy. It was enacted in 1972 with amendments in 1994.

Termination of pregnancy can be done under the following circumstances:

(i) Where the pregnancy constitutes a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or where the pregnancy constitutes a risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

(ii) Where the pregnancy constitutes a risk to the physical or mental health of any existing children of the pregnant woman, to such extent that the risk is greater than if the pregnancy were terminated.

(iii) In circumstances where the pregnancy constitutes substantial risk so much that the child to be born would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

In Zambia, Marie Stopes International provides sexual and reproductive healthcare to thousands of Zambia's vulnerable women and, according to their website, in 2011, the organisation prevented 1, 900 unsafe abortions in the country.


Matongo Maumbi said...

In as much as government says Marie Stopes was conducting (il)legal abortions, I feel what they were doing was help the many women and girls have the procedure safely. Imagine a situation where they women/girls have nowhere to turn to for a safe termination of their pregnancy. Whence do we have a government act so quickly at a matter like this as opposed to serving lives.
What statistics does MoH have of girls/women who have done LEGAL abortions in this country. When will they provide safe abortions? We may say abortion is bad, but if the one affected does not what to keep the pregnancy no matter what, the least you can do is offer a SAFE alternative. I believe there is more to this than just what we are being told.
"If safe, legal abortion were not available, more women would experience unwanted
childbearing, and unwanted childbearing affects the entire family. Mothers with
unwanted births suffer from higher levels of depression and lower levels of happiness
than mothers without unwanted births. They spank and slap their children more often
than other mothers, and spend less leisure time outside the home with their children.
Lower-quality mother/child relationships are not limited to the child born as a result of the unwanted pregnancy — all the children in the family suffer." (Barber et al., 1999).
"Any erosion of a woman’s right and access to medically safe, legal abortion jeopardizes the health of women, their families, and the nation as a whole."

Boyd said...

Frankly, I think there is a misunderstanding here.I cant believe it that government didnt know what Marie Stoppes was doing in the country. They were duly issued with a license to operate in Zambia, meaning their activities were well known before hand. So, I think there is more to this than meets the eye.


Anonymous said...

When women are in a position of power, the laws will benefit women.

It should be a woman's choice not the goverment's.

Anonymous said...

The actions are being taken in a hurry and without consultation: in the end, it's not Government that falls pregnant: it's women in these communities.
To some extent, the Government feels by suspending abortions, they can make citizens conform to or with a certain standard.
However, the reality is that as long as unplanned pregnancies continue to proliferate,safe methods of terminating them will be required!
Can someone imagine how many abortions take place away from the Governments eye? The actions are worth revisiting

Adams Muftawu said...

As much as abortion is dangerous to the health of women, I think there is some miscommunication somewhere.How in the first place did government issue them license to operate?Didn't Government know it is illegal in the first place?
On the other hand I think enough consultation should be done for a good decision to be taken because this particular one is hasty.

Anonymous said...

If Marie Stopes International is being penalized for not having the stipulated number of doctors present at a medical abortion, perhaps Government would have been more concerned about working with the NGO to beef up the presence of medical practitioners in regions that are affected by staff shortages. I say so because I am concerned that stopping the NGO from carrying out its work will only encourage women, and girls especially, to turn to backyard abortions. That will put lives of many girls and women at risk, meaning the 1, 900 unsafe abortions that Marie Stopes prevented in 2011 would no longer be prevented. Is this what we want of our women and girls or are we, like the proverbial ostrich, going to continue burying our heads in the sand believing that abortions are not happening?
I feel the Government has a duty to ensure that the citizenry is protected at all costs. But I also feel that in dealing with the Marie Stopes International case, authorities should have factored in the problem of critical medical staff shortages which have left some Government health institutions without required numbers of nurses, clinical officers, not to mention the obvious problem of lack of doctors which also affects the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka.

Anonymous said...

Personaly, I feel there is a misunderstading somewhere because Marie Stopes International is not a small organsation. Besides that, it runs on donor money. I do not think that such an organisation can come into a country like ours, start committing illegalities in broad daylight and even keep records of its misdeeds. I hope ministry of health will be level headed in its investigations.

Anonymous said...

i smell a rotten fish here with our government.Who allowed this organisation in the first place?Creating employment in the name of terminating Zambian lives ?what a shame.Bringing satanic practices in the name of investor? No way.It has backfired and BACK TO SENDER


Jeremy Munthali said...

The TOP Act is clear, abortion can be conducted as along as good reasons are given and signed by three medical doctors.
According to the TOP Act these abortions should be conducted strictly in a recognised medical facilities, so most of these Chinese doctors conducting abortions are doing so illegally.
Thumbs up Meluse well researched piece