First two articles in the SAFEZT thematic series:
"Abortion politics and practices in a comparative perspective: experiences from Eastern and Southern Africa", published in International Journal for Equity in Health.
Shaping the abortion policy – competing discourses on the Zambian termination of pregnancy act
By Marte E. S. Haaland, Haldis Haukanes, Joseph Mumba Zulu, Karen Marie Moland, Charles Michelo, Margarate Nzala Munakampe and Astrid Blystad
Conclusion: This article challenges the notion that the Zambian abortion law is liberal and opens up for further discussion on the relationship between how a law is described and perceived by the public, and the rights to health and services ensured by it.
The study findings show that the Zambian case is not easily placed into standard categories of liberal or restrictive abortion laws. The archival material reveals that restrictive elements were in focus when the Zambian Termination of Pregnancy Act was passed (1972). The restrictive aspects of the law were emphasized further when Zambia was later declared as a Christian nation. Some of these restrictive elements are still readily recognized in today’s abortion debate. Currently there are multiple opinions on whether Zambian abortion policy is liberal, restrictive or neither. The law emerges as ambiguous, and this ambiguity is actively used by both those working to increase access to safe and legal abortion services, and those who work to limit such access. Coupled with a lack of knowledge about the law, its ambiguity may work to reduce access to safe abortion services on the grounds permitted by the law.
When abortion is not within reach: Ethiopian university students struggling with unintended pregnancies
Mulumebet Zenebe and Haldis Haukanes
Conclusion: Along with rural-urban and gendered inequities, the article demonstrates how a shame-silence nexus forcefully operates in the lives of female students struggling with reproductive challenges, and the serious consequences a pregnancy may have for those who carry it to term.
The study findings show three possible scenarios for how students can deal with an unwanted pregnancy. The first is to have the pregnancy terminated secretly, and thereby avoid the stigma linked to premarital pregnancy. The second is to make a deliberate decision to keep the pregnancy and face the consequences to come. The third scenario is found in cases where the student seems paralyzed by feelings of shame, and where she ends up keeping the pregnancy due to her inability to act. Students who end up carrying their pregnancy to term face many problems. Few support structures at the university are in place to cater for their needs. Moreover, family support is endangered by pregnancy, as it puts the student at risk of being ostracized from her family due to the shame she has imposed on them. Shame and silence are thus important social forces in these students’ lives, underpinned by gendered inequities and patriarchal norms.