Malawi political parties unite to reform abortion law

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Malawi communique

In a bold and unprecedented move, leaders from all 11 political parties in Malawi signed a communique—an official statement on the record—supporting both law reform on abortion and the passing of a proposed draft bill into law.

Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world—24 percent of maternal deaths being attributable to unsafe abortion. According to a Ministry of Health study, 67,300 women and girls seek an abortion every year, and of these, 18,700 develop serious complications including loss of uterus, permanent disability, and death. Treatment for abortion complications in public facilities costs the government approximately $313,000 USD per year. Because poor and young women are disproportionately affected and because abortion is highly stigmatized, the government hears little from those who bear the highest burden of abortion-related human rights violations.

In a meeting organized by Ipas Malawi and local partners, political leaders received a presentation on the crisis of unsafe abortion and the proposed bill that would allow for abortion in cases of risk to the woman’s physical and mental health, rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. The presentation drew on research studies and human rights principles focusing on women’s rights in support of liberalizing the law that currently criminalizes abortion. In recognition of the great need for law reform, participants showed their commitment through a signed statement, ending the meeting by singing the national anthem as a sign of solidarity.

“We celebrate this extraordinary milestone in the road to abortion law reform in Malawi,” says Chrispine Sibande, Ipas Malawi Senior Policy Advisor. “We are hopeful that Members of Parliament will recognize this strong unity that started with civil rights society organizations, chiefs, youth groups, community-based organizations, faith-based groups, and now political parties. Malawi is united in ending deaths of women and girls resulting from unsafe abortion."