Coalition highlights major gaps in new Termination of Pregnancy Bill

The Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (Copua) said the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill contains some gaps which need to be addressed before Parliament endorses it.

Discussing abortion law reforms
Discussing abortion law reforms

Malawi Parliament is yet to debate on the proposed government bill which seeks to amend the current laws that restrict abortion in the country.

The bill is proposing a reform of abortion laws and policies to ensure women and girls, mostly from poor families, are not dying of unsafe abortions complications.

And in interview with Nyasa Times during a two-day media orientation meeting in Mangochi, Copua Chairperson Juliet Sibale noted that the new bill has failed to provide enough grounds on which women and girls could seek safe abortion services.

“There are gaps which we noted in the new bill, and we are currently lobbying that when our Parliamentarians deliberate on that bill, they should consider such gaps. There is a need for such gaps to be amended if we are to have a law that provide enough grounds on which women and girls can terminate a pregnancy,” explained Sibale.

Sibale, a lawyer in the Ministry of Gender, said the currently bill has left other grounds on which a pregnancy can be terminated such as social economic reasons, arguing that will force women and girls  to continue use unsafe abortion methods- of which the bill is fighting against.

The proposed bill provides three grounds on why abortion can be done. One is when a woman is raped; when her life is threatened by the pregnancy and on incest thus when a child is impregnated by a family member. But also when there is a malformation of the fetus- no proper development of the child in the womb.

Findings of a yet to be released Ministry of Health research indicate that the problem of unsafe abortion is still worsening in the country.

Malawi has one of the highest Maternal Mortality Ratios in the world with 675 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies, and unsafe abortion contributes about 17 percent of the deaths.

Restrictive abortion laws and policies have been forcing woman and girls to seek unsafe abortion services from untrained people with figures showing that about 70,000 women have abortions in Malawi every year translating into 24 abortions for every 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44.

And Sibale has since called for quick review of the country’s laws, saying “The research finds clearly shows that the problem is big. Its high time Malawi start treating these issues of unsafe abortion seriously and reform its laws to address problem. We need quick redress.”

Recently, Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) expressed optimism that the faith community will endorse the new bill yet to be tabled in Parliament.

According to statistics, about 31, 000 Malawian women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion annually; 50 percent are young girls below 25 years of age while 80 percent are married women and 64 percent are rural girls and women.

Women in Malawi, according to information, seek abortions due to poverty and inability to support more children; the desire of young girls to remain in school; extra-marital pregnancy; partner insistence and parental insistence. They also seek abortion after getting pregnancy from prostitution and when the pregnancy is too close to the previous pregnancy and also pregnancy that is the result of defilement, rape or incest.

Others abort to avoid being expelled from the Church or restrictions in work policies on maternity leave or restrictions in private medical insurance schemes and also when the relationship is abusive.

In Malawi approximately 70,000 women have abortions every year and 30,000 of those women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion. Public run health care facilities spend about US$300,000-US$500,000 annually in caring for post-abortion care implications.

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Rita Joseph
Rita Joseph
5 years ago

Ultrasound technology, together with biology, embryology, fetal surgery, and examination of the human remains of an abortion, all tell us that the victim targeted for abortion is a human being, belonging to the human family, a human being who can be identified as a daughter or son, a ‘who’ not a generic ‘thing’.

True justice requires that elective abortions be recognized and treated not as harmless, idiosyncratic, personal ‘choices’ but as abusive practices, as human rights violations perpetrated by abortionists and involving the complicity of politicians, judges and others.

Rita Joseph
Rita Joseph
5 years ago

Genuine medicine does no deliberate harm to a distressed mother or her little unborn daughter or son.

Lethal violence against children is never ‘necessary’.

All violence against children is preventable.

Before as well as after birth, children should never receive less protection than adults.

Their mothers’ personal and social needs can and should be met by non-violent means.

Malcolm Potts MD, PhD FRCOG

I am a British physician who practiced obstetrics when abortion was illegal and then again after the law was reformed in 1966. i saw first hand how women suffered and were exploited when abortion was illegal and how they benefitted when the law was changed. Interestingly the so-called social clause the allows doctors to take into account the woman’s social environment was based on a statement made by the Archbishop of CAnterbury. There is compelling evidence from New York State and from Romania that making abortion safe does not increase the total number of abortions, although it reduces the number… Read more »

John Black
5 years ago

the new abortion bill is way overdue, considering the international situation, as well as the well being of Malawi’s women. However it must include also danger to the mental well being of the woman as a legitimate reason for abortion. We want women’s rights, including abortion rights. Women are just as capable as men to decide on their own body; we should not disqualify their opinion. We all want to prevent abortions, making it illegal is not effective. The effective solution is early comprehensive sex education including family planning, combined with widely available methods of modern family planning for every… Read more »

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