Thursday, September 10, 2015 | News

Malawi political parties unite to reform abortion law

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.”

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