A Special Law Commission on the review of Abortion Law in Malawi has called for liberalisation of abortion in the country as opposed to decriminalisation as championed by proponents of safe abortion.
Hence, the commission is proposing for the relaxation of current restrictions to cater for certain justifiable instances where termination of pregnancy should be permissible.
The proposal was made on Friday in Lilongwe at a media conference marking the conclusion of work of the Special Law Commission, which started in June 2013.
The commission chaired by Justice Esmie Chombo has identified four grounds justifying termination of pregnancy in Malawi.
“One of the grounds is where continued pregnancy will endanger the life of a pregnant woman and this has to be certified by a health service provider. The other reason is where termination is necessary to prevent injury to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman,” said Chombo.
The other reasons are where there is severe malformation of the foetus, which will affect its viability or compatibility with life as well as where the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest or defilement.
“On this grounds, the termination of pregnancy should be performed on request and the disclosure of the victim about the same. While this covers minors who are not mature enough for child-bearing, among other reasons, victims of these sexual offences are required to report the incident to police. A police report will suffice as evidence for procuring an abortion,” explained Chombo.
But only a woman with a pregnancy not exceeding 16 weeks gestation, qualifies under the respective ground for aborting. The number of weeks was put as a cut-off point from which a woman can make up her mind on whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.
The commission’s report further proposes health service providers who may perform abortion to women who qualify under law.
The findings and recommendations of the commission together with a draft bill on termination of pregnancy will then be presented to the Ministry of Justice before being taken to Cabinet for approval and later presented in Parliament.
Meanwhile, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has welcomed the report, saying it is a step in the right direction.
“The report is helpful to Malawi which continues to lose women through unsafe abortions. We are looking forward to government’s approval through Cabinet as well as in the National Assembly,” said the UNFPA assistant country representative, Dorothy Nyasulu.
Membership of the Special Law Commission comprised representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Judiciary, Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), chiefs, Law Society, Ministry of Justice and the Malawi College of Medicine.