Parliamentary Health Committee vice-chairperson Victor Musowa has asked Malawians to learn from liberal laws on termination of pregnancy from other African countries aimed at protecting lives of vulnerable women and girls.
Speaking during a recent networking meeting for members of Parliament, religious and traditional leaders in Lilongwe, Musowa asked the delegates to accept the enactment of Termination of Pregnancy Bill in the country.
He said Ethiopia and other African countries enacted a law that allows women to seek pregnancy termination in hospitals if they are having problems.
“What is important is to protect the life of the woman who is carrying that pregnancy. We cannot accept that a woman’s life should end because we want to protect the pregnancy. We need to protect the woman,” he said.
He added that the Ethiopian law, which Malawi can learn from, also protects those impregnated through rape.
“The law also protects women and girls who are mentally ill and are usually taken advantage of by some men. These need to be protected,” Musowa said.
In his keynote address on behalf of Ministry of Health, Mzuzu Central Hospital director Dr Frank Sinyiza said over 70 000 women in Malawi procure abortions every year.
He said: “About half of them die because they undergo unsafe abortion. As citizens, there is something we can do. Let us come up with strategies that will protect our women.”
Dr Thoko Msusa of University of Malawi’s College of Medicine said research studies on the magnitude and problems of unsafe abortion in Malawi indicate that women are paying a high price for this law physically, economically and socially.
“About 30 000 women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion annually,” he said.
Msusa added that one in five women who receive post-abortion care have severe complications that need to be treated.
“At 675 per 100 000 live births, Malawi’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. 17 percent of these deaths are attributable to unsafe abortion,” he said.
In his presentation on Malawi’s law reform process, Mike Chinoko of Malawi Law Commission said the current legislation allows the termination of pregnancy where necessary to save the life of a mother.
“Strictly speaking, the current law also limits the termination to surgical operation,” he noted.
Therefore, he said, the Commission proposed that the termination should remain illegal but exception should extend to saving life of a mother, protecting raped women and girls from trauma and protecting those with physical and mental disability.
The local bill on termination of pregnancy is currently facing resistance from some quarters, particularly the religious sector who argue that it is ungodly and against religious teachings.
However, Chinoko said currently it is only Malawi in the Sadc region which Termination of Pregnancy law. n