On Monday September 17, I was working in the New Life office using the wireless Internet to get some work done for Uzima. Josephine had suggested the night before that I look at a site called Silent Voices as a model for Uzima’s pregnancy counseling center.
I found the website very interesting. It possessed information about abortion laws and tendencies around the world. Intrigued, I conducted a bit of independent research on the abortion laws of Tanzania. I will share some of my findings here. These facts and statistics come from the most recently released Abortion Policy Outline by the United Republic of Tanzania, which uses the UN Population Policy Data Bank as a source for publication.
- · Abortion is legal in Tanzania only to save the life of the mother and preserve physical or mental health (not for rape/incest, fetal impairment, econ or social reasons)
- · Person who takes action to procure the miscarriage of a woman is subject to 14 years of imprisonment
- · A pregnant woman who takes action to procure a miscarriage is subject to 7 years of imprisonment
- · A study conducted in the 1980s in the Kilimanjaro region estimates that about 21% of maternal deaths were related to abortion
- · In 1996, the contraceptive prevalence rate was estimated to be 13% for modern methods
- · As of year 2000, the current fertility rate was 5.5 children per mother
I also found that abortion is only completely illegalized in three countries: El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile. I asked a handful of Tanzanians what they think those three countries are, and all of them named Tanzania as one of them. This leads me to believe that there is a broad misconception about the abortion laws in the Kilimanjaro area. A theory that I have is this misconception is fed by the hesitance to talk objectively about abortion here in Tanzania. The few people who want to talk about it at all tend to be Christian support groups (like Silent Angels) who strongly advocate against it.
I want to include abortion studies in my independent project by asking more people what they think the Tanzanian government’s stance is on the issue, interviewing women who have chosen self-induced abortion, interviewing women who chose to keep the child, and interviewing women who will be making their choice in the near future.