Abortions rampant among religious women -report

Religious women rank high on the list of women who opt for unsafe abortions in Malawi, a Ministry of Health report says.

According to The Weekend Times the report is as a result of a research, the first of its kind in Malawi, which was carried out in 2009 in conjunction with UNFPA but was released in May this year under the title “Abortion in Malawi: Results of a study of incidents and magnitude of complications due to unsafe abortions”.

The research findings indicate that unsafe abortions are rampant among religious women because they fear being labelled less spiritual by their communities if discovered to be pregnant.

The statistics indicate that CCAP has the highest cases with 584 (28.5 percent) seconded by Catholics with 478 (23 percent) then Pentecostals with 472 (22.7 percent), Muslims at 215 (10.3 percent) while other religions registered only 14 representing 0.7 percent. 

Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali is quoted to have said people should not read much into the statistics on religious women because they were just demographic characteristics designed to help in understanding the problem so as to come up with the right mitigation mechanisms.

Chimbali said his ministry was still working on the research results so as to gather enough information to help in policy formulation.

“We have not come to a point where we can say we should legalize abortions in Malawi or not. We are still gathering information so as to make the right decisions in terms of policy formulation,” the tabloid quotes Chimbali as saying.

He said the ministry would also compare the statistics with other SADC countries to evaluate whether Malawi is worse off or not.

He is quoted as having said that another research is being carried out to assess the cost impact incurred in trying to treat complications of unsafe abortions by the health sector as well as families and individuals involved in unsafe abortions.

Other statistics in the research indicate that among school going women, those in secondary school and tertiary institutions ranked high in unsafe abortions registering 645 (32.9 percent) followed by senior primary schools students (Standard 6-8) at 614 (29.5 percent).

Those in junior primary school weighed in with a figure of 531 representing 25.2 percent. The least number came from those in non-school category registering a figure of 257 representing 12.2 percent.

Among adult women, those in marriages recorded the highest figure of all with 1,688 representing 81.4 percent followed by those unmarried at 280 (13.8 percent).

Those on separation registered only 60 (2.8 percent) while those in cohabiting relationships registered only 38 with a percentage of 2.0.

The research was carried out among women who are sexually active falling between the age of 13 and 51.

Poverty, illiteracy, poor health and the fear of being chased out of school are among the reasons that contribute to the high rate of unsafe abortions in Malawi.

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