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At film launch, Zambian first lady calls for improved access to safe, legal abortion

Monday, December 09, 2013

First Lady of Zambia Dr. Christine Kaseba: "Access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including safe abortion services...is a basic human right."

On Nov. 28, Ipas Zambia, in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Community Development, Mother and Child launched “Conversations on Abortion,” a documentary about unsafe abortion and maternal health in Zambia. Reflecting the priority the government places on maternal health, First Lady of Zambia Dr. Christine Kaseba was on hand to give the keynote address.

In her remarks Kaseba called for improving access to reproductive health education and services to reduce maternal deaths and injuries “Access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including safe abortion services within the law, is recognized as a basic human right, protected by a range of international human rights treaties and laws.”

The documentary, which will be broadcast on national television and screened at community events around the country, was created to increase awareness of the impact of unsafe abortion on women and girls, and the need to expand access to safe, abortion services. This documentary will be used educate and sensitize policymakers, civil society organizations and the general public about the need safe abortion services in Zambia.

Zambia currently has one of the more liberal abortion laws in Africa, yet includes a requirement that a woman receive the approval of three doctors puts abortion out of reach for women in more rural areas.

Also speaking at the event was Dr. Olusegun Babaniyi, country representative of the World Health Organization. Babaniyi applauded the documentary for creating awareness about the dangers of unsafe abortion and the need to both prevent unwanted pregnancy while simultaneously increasing access to safe abortion.

“Access to safe, effective contraception can substantially reduce – but never eliminate – the need for abortion to regulate fertility,” he said. “By investing in abortion safety and availability, governments can save the lives of thousands of women every year.”

Over one hundred people attended the high profile event, including political leaders, heads of development and civil society organizations, leaders of the police force and leaders from medical institutions and professional organizations. 

Ipas Zambia Director Felicia Sakala said of the diverse audience, “We all have a role to play in ending unsafe abortion. From our legal system, to our health system, even down to the community level, we must all work together to ensure that women have access to the information and care they need to make safe reproductive decisions.”