Unsafe abortion is hurting Malawi women: Pregnancy Termination Bill is important piece of legislation

State House confirmed on Monday that the Termination of Pregnancy Bill will be tabled in the current sitting of Parliament. As expected, voices against this bill are already soaring.

A woman gives a testimony on the evils and dangers of abortion at a news conference organised by faith leaders in Lilongwe. Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

For instance, the Malawi Council of Churches, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Muslim Association of Malawi, Evangelical Association of Malawi and Qadria Muslims Association of Malawi have all spoken against the proposed bill.

But before we stand against this proposed bill, have we really understood what this bill is all about and what problem it intends to solve?

We have a serious health challenge facing our women in form unsafe abortion. Law or no law, our women and girls, every day, are indulging in unsafe abortion and it’s destroying their wombs, some are dying and, of course, the country is losing a lot of money in post-abortion care.

For instance, according to a 2009 government study, there were about 70 500 induced abortions in Malawi. Of these, almost half are younger than 25 years old, four out of five are married and about two-thirds live in rural areas.

According to the study, an estimated one in five women had severe complications, seven percent had moderate complications and 73 percent had low or no complications.

Economically, unsafe abortion is rearing its ugly head on the country’s thin purse. In providing post-abortion care, government loses between $300 000 (K120 million) and $500 000 (K200 million) every year.

Arguably, this is a challenge we must handle as a nation. There is no way we can look otherwise when our women are facing a problem.

In solving this problem, we need, in the first place, to ask: What is driving our women to indulge in safe abortion?

There are two major reasons why most women and girls opt for unsafe abortion. One, because safe abortion is costly and, two, because there is a perception that abortion is illegal.

To address this, government has come up with a Pregnancy Termination Bill with a goal to, one, make safe abortion free and, two, expand the grounds of procuring abortion.

But let us face facts, first.

Contrary to popular views, abortion, under Section 243 of the Penal Code, is legal in Malawi.

The section says performing an abortion is not a crime if it is done “for the preservation of the mother’s life, if the performance of the operation is reasonable, having regard to the patient’s state at the time, and to all the circumstances of the case.”

At the same time, under Sections 149-151 of the Penal Code, abortion legislation is very restrictive.

Section 149 says “a person who assists a woman to abort is guilty of a felony and may be imprisoned for up to 14 years” while Section 150 provides that “a woman who aborts or attempts to abort is guilty of a felony and may be imprisoned for up to 7 years.”

In addition, Section 151 says “any supplier of items, drugs etc is guilty of a felofny if he/she was aware that the item is intended to be used for abortion, and may be imprisoned for up to 3 years.”

What this means is that despite abortion being legal, the law is very restrictive in the sense that it demands that abortion should be carried out by “any person with reasonable care and skill to carry out an operation to preserve the mother’s life.”

What we have is that there are no standards and guidelines to guide policy makers, NGOs, the Ministry of Health and medical professionals on how to apply Section 243 of the Penal Code.

This section is vague. For instance, it fails to answer questions such as: who makes a decision that the pregnancy should be terminated between doctor and patient? At what stage can this decision be made? At which health facility? What are the counseling guidelines? What about religious beliefs? What about family planning awareness?

The net effect of this is that there are free-for-all abortions being carried out by many unskilled people. The result is that we have a situation that all complications related to unsafe abortions are ending up in hospitals.

So, hospitals are spending a lot of time and resources providing post-abortion care from unsafe abortions. This is in form of providing space in the wards and ICU, operations in theatre and provisions of necessary drugs.

The country needs to open up and start talking about the issue, scale up family planning and reform the law on abortions.

This current situation is fueling a lot of unsafe abortions. It is costly to the nation, and the space to access safe abortion is very limited.

If you can ask Malawians now whether women are having abortion almost everybody will say ‘yes’. But if you go further and ask them as to ‘how’ and ‘where’, there will be a lot of murmuring and hiding of information.

If you go to the hospitals especially gynecological wards they will tell you that 30 percent of the space is being occupied by unsafe abortion patients.

Then you realise there is chaos which should not continue where women are injured and killed. It is time to put in place a proper law that will address the problem and stop women from dying.

This is what the bill, to be tabled in Parliament, wants to address. That is why this bill is important and we should all support it.

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JONES
JONES
10 days ago

Let us train ourselves on morals and continence. This is a stupid thing. Let the proposers be the first to be grouped on a death row. They will react and say no and yet they want innocent souls be aborted! Rubbish, crazy, hypocrisy and shame.

Malawi walero
Malawi walero
10 days ago

Very rubbish. Who doesnt know that if i do plain sex i get pregnant? Why cant government go and teach ppl like making seminarries donw in villages so that ppl can understand the dangers of abortion? If u pass the bill then u are useless mokeys seating in parliament

NZERU NKUPANGWA
NZERU NKUPANGWA
9 days ago
Reply to  Malawi walero

who doesnt know? abused children

Banda
Banda
10 days ago

Bill must be passed to protect the girls an women from unsafe abortion. Legal abortion does not mean an increase in the abortion rate just means women can go somewhere to obtain a safe hygienic sanitized procedure at a clinic.
No one is forcing private Muslim or Christen Hospitals or Clinics to do the procedure but it must be available in each Region.

Maziko Jr
Maziko Jr
10 days ago
Reply to  Banda

If it becomes law then Muslim and Christian churches will be committing an offence should they refuse to perform abortions. Malawians have other pressing issues not this abortion bill.

I suspect this bill is the price for campaign finances given to mcp/utm campaigns

Maziko Jr
Maziko Jr
10 days ago

Rubbish. This government is full of hypocrisy. It contemplates an embassy in Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv for biblical reasons yet at almost the same time wants to promote the sin of abortions.

Malawians don’t want abortions legalised. Every year lots of girls abort illegally and they neither die nor get jailed, no one is complaining about the current status.

It’s the sugar daddies who stand to benefit from legalisation of abortions as they will be free to entice girls and freely pay for the services.

Last edited 10 days ago by Maziko Jr
Ndede
Ndede
10 days ago

My friend, you want to Price Life? Dont be such stupid. If you ask a doctor, life begins after fertilization…and you are here lying to yourself. Put it plain and simple…..The bill before us is to allow women kill unborn children. Then ask heavens for blessings. You are a total joke and this is the useless bill that has happened in this God fearing land. Why dont we say hey you girls and boys…do not have sex before marriage….does that sound like Killing unborn babies?

Wiseup
Wiseup
10 days ago

Why not encourage abstinence other than abortion. Ma abortion proponents mudyapo zingati za angerezi akukupangani bankroll. inu mumafunika manu akanakupangani abort we would not be having this nusensi discussions now.

Anyway, go ahead and discuss the bill. Zithela mmaluwa ngati za gay marriages.

Concerned parentarrest
Concerned parentarrest
10 days ago

Let the women make a decision

Hazel
Hazel
10 days ago

Legalize it. Most of the people agains it are men. why should they even comment on this. At the end of the day it is them perpetrating the crimes that put women in this predicament. Who amongst us will be gladly willing to keep a rape pregnancy.

chaiwone wawo
10 days ago
Reply to  Hazel

tell us the percentage of rape pregnancies in malawi

Okhwima
Okhwima
9 days ago
Reply to  chaiwone wawo

Kafunse amayi ako

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