Malawi Government has finally released and gazetted the long awaited Termination of Pregnancy Bill to the general public ending speculation on the whereabouts of the bill.
The report and the Bill has this week been distributed to all 193 members of parliament, Speaker of parliament, libraries, universities, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice and the judiciary.
The Bill is expected ti be tabled in this session of parliament.
Members of Parliament, Civil Society Leaders faith community and general populous have been asking on the availability of the Bill.
Government released a statement in December saying there is no such a bill at both Cabinet and Parliament. It transpires that indeed the Report on Review of Abortion and Termination of Pregnancy Bill were going through printing at that time after the Special Law Commission finished its work. Malawi Government released the statement after some religious bodies had taken to the street demanding that the Exceutice should reject calls of possible law reforms on abortion. ”Government wishes to dismiss categorically claims that there is Abortion Bill ready for debate in the National Assembly .The truth of the matter is that the Law Commission has developed a report and made recommendations to Government to adopt a new law on abortion,” government had said at that time.
Currently, government allows termination of any pregnancy only when the life of the mother is in danger. This restrictive law is generally accepted by those opposing the Bill, conceding that some life may be terminated for the survival of another. Section 3 of the Bill states: “Except as provided in this section, termination of pregnancy shall not be performed on demand or for any other reason.” Speaking when opening a two day media orientation workshop in Salima, Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA) Acting Chairperson, Simon Sikwese, said the release and Gazetting of the bill will help Malawians to fully understand about the Bill. “The report offers an opportunity for the public to appreciate content of the Bill and this will correct the misconception,” said Sikwese. Sikwese said Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, with a significant percentage of those deaths due to unsafe abortion.
“Unsafe abortion is the second leading cause of pregnancy-related mortality in Malawi accounting to 18% of all maternal deaths and is the leading cause of obstetric complications,” said Sikwese.
Current report on abortion released by College of Medicine indicates that in 2015 alone 141,000 abortion cases were registered. The report also indicated that there are 900,000 pregnancies yearly where 470,000 are unwanted translating into 2,500 pregnancies per day meaning 105 Malawians get pregnant per hour.
The proposed law to make termination of pregnancy legal and safe only adds further grounds for termination of pregnancy.
They include cases of rape, defilement, and incest; gross foetal malformations incompatible with extra-uterine life; cases where the continuation of the pregnancy may jeopardise the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman.