Young Women’s Lack of Access to Information on Safe Abortion in Zambia

Copper Rose Zambia works to make a difference in the lives of women and girls by educating them about their sexual and reproductive health rights. This includes our Safe Reproductive Health Awareness Project, which has been running in the Petauke and Nyimba districts since January 2020.

Young women especially are at risk of unsafe abortions.

In Zambia the law allows for abortion in a number of circumstances. Yet, there are still many barriers to accessing a safe and legal abortion in Zambia. One big problem is the level of awareness of the rights that women and girls actually have. So that’s why we work to increase knowledge of the law and of the services available.

We organized a safe abortion awareness community outreach at one of the colleges in the district. We shared information with the students about the laws available in Zambia with regards to termination of pregnancy and under what circumstances the services are offered. The response from the students was positive. Most of them did not know that safe abortion is legal in the country and that services are offered at the health facilities.

“Mostly girls here are scared of going to the hospital to inquire about abortion services and prefer to terminate pregnancies from home which is not safe. Now that I have this information I will share with other girls so that they can access safe abortion services at the hospital.” – Student Participant

Young women experience a number of challenges in accessing safe abortion services in the communities we work with.

Cultural barriers and the negative perceptions that come with terminating a pregnancy can be a huge obstacle.

For example, we spoke to a 21 year old girl who narrated how she was invited for a drink by a man who was a neighbor. When they went out, they had a few drinks and afterwards they went to his place. When they were at his house, they had unprotected sex and she fell pregnant. She thought it was best to terminate the pregnancy because she was still at school. We referred her to the hospital for a safe abortion.

When she reached the hospital she was received nicely and taken to the abortion screening room. But the service provider asked her a number of uncomfortable questions and later told her she couldn’t perform the abortion because she was young and it’s a sin to terminate a pregnancy. The health care provider imposed her beliefs and hence this made the girl so uncomfortable, she left the facility and the service was not performed. Days later, her parents were informed that their daughter visited the health facility and that she wanted an abortion. She was forced to keep the pregnancy due to all these factors. Including, lack of confidentiality and being denied access to a safe abortion by the health care provider.

Our work requires us to train health care providers in values clarification and attitude transformation. What they believe in should not be imposed on a client.

“There is a need to shift mindsets of health care providers so that more young women can access safe abortion services at health facilities.” – Mambepa Nakazwe, Programs Officer

Copper Rose Zambia is a grantee partner of the Safe Abortion Action Fund.