were unveiled on Friday by the Malawi Law Commission, a body comprised
of representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Judiciary, faith and
traditional leaders, the Law Society, the Ministry of Justice and the
Malawi College of Medicine. Citing the high incidence of maternal
mortality in Malawi due to unsafe abortion, the Law Commission has
recommended liberalization of the law that currently criminalizes
abortion in all circumstances except to save the life of the pregnant
The Law Commission’s recommendations include allowing for abortion in
cases of risks to physical or mental health, rape, incest or fetal
abnormalities. They were issued following extensive consultations with
key stakeholders around the country, including women who might seek safe
abortion care, medical experts, legal scholars and traditional and
religious leaders. The findings and recommendations together with a
draft bill will be presented in Parliament.
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.
“We applaud the government of Malawi for seeking review of the abortion law and making these recommendations. This is an important first step toward ending preventable deaths from unsafe abortion,” says Chrispine Sibande, Ipas Malawi Senior Policy Advisor. “We are hopeful that Malawi Parliament will take the recommended and sensible step to revise the law.”
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