Abortion in Zambia is legal, but too many women and girls undergo illegal, unsafe procedures
The Zambian Termination of Pregnancy Act, enacted in 1972 and amended in 1994, legalised induced abortion in a wide range of circumstances, including a risk to a woman’s physical or mental health or that of any existing children, taking into account her age or her environment. Zambia’s relatively liberal abortion laws make the country a rare case in sub-Saharan Africa, where abortion is generally prohibited altogether or permitted only to save a woman’s life.
However, unsafe abortion is common. The majority of women seeking abortion-related care in Zambia do so for PAC – post-abortion care to address problematic outcomes of unsafe induced abortion.
Unsafe abortion is a significant cause of maternal mortality and morbidity in Zambia
After adjusting to remove HIV/AIDS related deaths, Zambia’s maternal mortality ratio is estimated to be 280 deaths per 100,000 live births. Although there are no nationally representative data available, the Zambian Government understand that around a third of these deaths are due to unsafe abortion.
Unsafe abortion is the most easily prevented cause of maternal death
Induced abortion is more likely when unmet need for effective contraception is high. In Zambia, pregnancies reported as unplanned are common: 16% of births are reported as unwanted, and 26% are reported as being mistimed. Unmet need for effective contraception among married women (an underestimate of the unmet need for women overall) is 27%, and it is estimated that if all married women with an unmet need for contraception were to use a method, the contraceptive prevalence rate would rise to 67% from 41%.