A research study has revealed that 141,044 women had an abortion in 2015 at an annual rate of 38 abortions per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 49, clearly indicating how common abortion is in Malawi despite having restrictive laws.
60 percent of the abortions resulted in complications that required medical treatment while 40 percent did not require medical treatment, the research study findings revealed.
The research conducted by USA-based Guttmacher Institute and Centre for Reproductive Health at the College of Medicine of the University of Malawi (Unima), further indicated abortion situation is worsening with time despite that contraceptive usage has increased in the country.
In 2009, abortion figures were 67,000 and five years later the figures have doubled amidst debate on whether the country should liberalize abortion laws by expanding the criteria under which an abortion can legally be obtained.
The research findings were made public on Thursday in Blantyre and health experts have since called for an action by the authorities if the situation is to be controlled. They were presented by Senior Lecturer at College of Medicine Dr. Chisale Mhango and Senior Research Assistant at Guttmacher Institute, Dr. Chelsea Polis.
According to the research which was done using Abortion Incidence Complications Methodology, an estimated 8861,161 unintended pregnancies occurred in 2015 comprising of 609,177 births, 135,940 miscarriages and 141,044 abortions.
This translates to an overall pregnancy rate of 238 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged between15-49 nationally. The unintended pregnancy rate was 126 per 1,000 women aged 15-49 with northern region registered more cases than the other two regions.
“Overall, 53 percent of pregnancies in Malawi were unintended, and of all unintended pregnancies, 30 percent ended in abortion. Among all pregnancies in Malawi, an estimated 16 percent ended in abortion, 15 percent in miscarriage, 30 percent in unintended birth, and 39 percent in intended birth,” the research findings indicate.
The northern region registered 61 percent of the abortion cases, southern region 39 percent and central region 29 percent. The research study also revealed that central region had highest intake of induced abortion post-care treatment at 39.2 percent, southern region 37.2 percent and northern region 23.6 percent.
Mhango said “Restrictive abortion laws do not stop abortions from occurring, they just drive it underground forcing women to resort to clandestine procedures which are often unsafe,” said Dr. Mhango.
“Every law has good reason for it. Abortion law is designed to prevent women from dying from unsafe abortions by discouraging them from having abortion. Unfortunately the law is not working; it has not discouraged women to have unsafe abortion. They continue to have unsafe abortion.”
He said there was a need for the country to emulate other countries that have managed to amend their laws to ensure women do not die from unsafe abortions and have access to improved post-care treatment.
“We in the medical profession our responsibility is to eliminate unnecessary deaths. And death from abortion is unnecessary, it can be prevented and other countries have prevented it. All we have to do is not to reinvent the wheel but to do what our colleagues have done to prevent it by providing more options for women not to resort to induced abortion,” he added.
Dr. Chelsea Polis said: “Helping Malawian women avoid unintended pregnancy is critical to reducing the incidence of abortion and the complications and deaths that often follow unsafe, clandestine procedures. Our study found that in 2015, more than half of all pregnancies in Malawi were unintended, and almost one-third of those unintended pregnancies ended in abortion.”
The researchers have since recommended the strengthening of Malawi’s family planning programs to ensure that all Malawians can use their preferred contraceptive methods correctly and consistently to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and therefore reduce the need for abortion.
They also noted the importance of continuing to expand post-abortion care services so that every woman who experiences complications from an unsafe abortion can get the care she needs.
The research study was funded by UK Government, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
Restrictive abortion laws and policies have been forcing woman and girls to seek unsafe abortion services from untrained people with the country spending about US$300,000-US$500,000 annually to treat complications of unsafe abortion.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :