Malawi: Maternal Deaths Worry Parliamentary Health Committee - 'New Law Does Not Legalise Abortion'

(File photo).
1 September 2020

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Mathews Ngwale has said government has an obligation to ensure that no woman should dies of pregnancy-related causes.

He made the remarks in Blantyre on Saturday during an interface organized by Ipas Malawi and Centre for Solutions Journalism (CSJ) which drew together some Members of Parliament, gender activists, religious and traditional leaders.

Ngwale said while countries have drastically reduced maternal deaths, Malawi still lags behind as 439 out of every 100,000 women die due to pregnancy-related factors.

He said while other maternal death causes such as infections and excessive bleeding were being addressed through various interventions, there was slow progress to reduce deaths caused by unsafe abortions.

Ngwale noted that the country was reeling in the crisis of maternal mortalities one of whose leading causes is unsafe abortion because it was still stuck with almost 100 year old colonial law.

"We cannot continue to sit back and watch our women die from unsafe abortion because we did not pass a law that would have protected them. We need to rise and say in future that 'I was one of those who stood up and prevented the deaths of girls and women in the country from unsafe abortion'," Ngwale said.

The Health Committee chairperson added that unsafe abortion was a burden to society even though it happens in secret.

"These things happen away from our sight. But they come back into our society, into our homes, into our hospitals and into our lives in one way or another. We need to do something about it," he said.

On his part, Senior Chief Chikumbu of Mulanje urged Parliamentarians to seriously think about the thousands of lives of women and girls that are lost to unsafe abortion in the country every year.

"MPs have a duty to prevent further deaths by passing laws and putting in policies that can solve the problem of deaths resulting from unsafe abortions," she said.

Malawi has been sitting on the proposed law since 2016 when the Malawi Law Commission released its report in which it recommended the enactment of a new Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

Gynecologist, Dr Chisale Mhango cleared the misinterpretation that the new proposed law legalizes abortion.

"Abortion shall remain illegal in the country but what is being done is only to expand the factors upon which safe abortion can be performed. The current law is pushing women into seeking an unsafe abortion," he said.

The proposed law adds that the termination of pregnancy may be performed to prevent injury to the physical and mental the health of the pregnant woman and in cases of severe foetal malformation rape, incest and defilement.

Currently, over 141,000 women induce abortion every year, according to research conducted by the College of Medicine.

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