The Malawi Special Law Commission on Abortion on Friday unveiled a final report on abortion law review which contains a new abortion bill known as Termination of Pregnancy Bill whhich advances for liberalisation of abortion in the country as opposed to decriminalisation.
The final findings were presented at the function which took place at Capital Hotel in the capital city Lilongwe last Friday and was attended by all 10 members of Special Commission on the Review of the Abortion Law
During the function, Chairperson of the Special commission, Justice Esmie Chombo, highlighted that the recommendations in the report is true reflection of what Malawians have been looking on the ground.
“For a long time, government has bemoaned the high prevalence of maternal mortality in Malawi and has identified unsafe abortion as one of the major contributing factors to this problem,”said Chombo
In the report, the commission has finally scrapped criminalization of individuals procuring abortion.
For starters, the current position of law is that abortion is illegal in Malawi except where it is performed to save the life of the pregnant woman through a surgical operation.
The current law criminalizes all such acts of procuring or assisting in the procuring of miscarriage of pregnant woman.
Chombo said: “Having considered all the information and literature, on matters of unsafe arbotion, the commission resolved and agreed that the law on abortion should be liberalised (that is conditional relaxation of the restrictions) as opposed to decriminalization of cater for certain justifiable instances where termination of a pregnancy should be permissible.”
She said “the termination of pregnancy should be performed on request and the disclosure of the victim about the same.”
In the new law which awaits the nod of Malawi Parliament, abortion will be permissible to prevent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, where pregnancy endangers the life of a woman, where pregnancy is as a result of rape, incest and defilement and where pregnancy has resulted into severe malformation of the foetus which will affect its viability.
“Victims of these sexual offences seeking to terminate a pregnancy are required to report the incident to the police, and the police must record the crime in the form of a police report,” explained Justice Chombo.
However, stakeholders which included the media thought the new law is still restrictive and pressed the commission on the statement appearing on page 8 of the commission statement which did not allow women to procure abortion on demand and for economic reasons or for contraceptive failure.
However evading the criticism from the stakeholders, Commissioner Dr Anne Phoya said most women in Malawi are poor.
“Now if we allow recommendations based on poverty, it means every women will be knocking on the doors seeking for abortion,” said Phoya.
“We know that some people wanted more, that the law should be like South Africa. Malawi is not South Africa. We considered views from different stakeholders including faith groups. This is a compromise of various views,” responded Commissioner Bishop Geofrey Matoga
The Special Commission comprised of members from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches, Muslim Association of Malawi, Traditional Leaders, the Law Society, and the Malawi College of Medicine.
When passed into law, Malawi will join Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Cape Verde and Ghana among African countries in having a clear law on how to terminate pregnancy.
Research published by Malawi Ministry of Health reveals that 70,000 women procure abortion every year, 17% of maternal mortality is as a result of unsafe abortion and 80% of women and girls who procure abortion are married or in stable permanent relationships.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :