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MBABANE – It’s a wait and see if Swaziland will take a recommendation to legalise abortion.

The country has been urged to adopt laws allowing voluntary abortion. This was one of the recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva.
In its concluding observations on Swaziland, the committee said the country should adopt the legislation provided in Article 15 of the Constitution and eliminate legal procedural obstacles to access  voluntary termination of pregnancy.
 According to the committee, this would ensure that women were not prompted to resort to clandestine abortions that put their lives and health at risk.

The country’s  Constitution provides that, abortion was unlawful but might be allowed: on medical or therapeutic grounds, including where a doctor certifies that – continued pregnancy will endanger the life or constitute a serious threat to the physical health of the woman; continued pregnancy will constitute a serious threat to the mental health of the woman; there is serious risk that the child will suffer from physical or mental defect of such a nature that the child will be irreparably seriously handicapped.

The committee stated that it was concerned at the significant increase of maternal mortality rate resulting from unsafe abortions.

“The committee is further concerned at the lack of clarity regarding the circumstances in which voluntary termination of pregnancy is legally available and that Swaziland had not yet adopted the legislation as provided for under Article 15 in the Constitution,” reads part of the report. It further expressed its concern at reports that cumbersome procedural requirements of court orders and refusal to perform abortion on grounds of conscientious objection, had obstructed access to women or girls seeking lawful abortions.  

Another concern was the high pregnancy rate in the country. Swaziland was urged to collect disaggregated data on maternal mortality, including risks to women resulting from unsafe abortion. The country was further called upon to adopt clear protocols for service providers to ensure meaningful access to legal abortion.

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