The final findings of a two-year review of the Malawi abortion law 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 woman.
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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