Enact Termination of Pregnancy law to save women’s lives, CSOs urge government


A consortium of civil society organisations has urged the government to enact the Termination of Pregnancy Bill to reduce maternal deaths and complications from unsafe abortions.

The organisations say Malawi’s restrictive abortion laws are putting the lives and well-being of women at risk, forcing many to turn to unsafe and illegal methods to terminate pregnancies.

Brian Ligomeka, who leads the Centre for Solutions Journalism (CSJ), a member of the consortium, says the restrictive laws are not only endangering women health but are also leading to unnecessary deaths and complications.

“Every woman and girl has the right to make decisions about her own body and reproductive health. There is need for the government to allow women access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion,” he said at the weekend in Blantyre.

Speaking during a sensitisation meeting of medical and health workers on the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill, Ligomeka commended the government for initiating the review of abortion laws.

“Abortion in our society is a sensitive issue, but we cannot pay a blind eye when women and girls are dying due to unsafe abortion. We commend the government through the Law Commission for drafting the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

“Regardless of diverse opinions on the issue, the greatest benefit of the bill is that it will save lives of women and girls who die in the process of procuring backstreet abortions. Once enacted, the law will help to reduce maternal mortality rates,” he said.

Making a presentation on the magnitude of unsafe abortions, Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA) Secretary General Dr Francis Makiya said unsafe abortion is a public health issue in Malawi.

“Studies by College of Medicine and Guttmacher Institute shows that an estimated 141,000 induced abortions occur each year,” he said.

He added, “the majority of unsafe abortions are performed by untrained providers in unsafe conditions, putting women’s lives at risk. Many women use unsafe abortion methods, which lead to serious health complications and death due to the restrictive law.”

Dr Makiya making a presentation to the health workers in Blantyre

Makiya said the enactment of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill which the Law Commission drafted, was important in reducing maternal deaths caused by unsafe abortions.

“It would even be ideal to provide a full SRHR package which includes comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, modern contraception, safe and legal abortion services, as well as post-abortion care. This is a sure way of reducing unsafe abortions.”

Speaking at the same sensitisation meeting, Hawa Mtitimila from Blantyre District Health Office hailed CSJ for organising the meeting, saying it was important for medical and health workers to have knowledge of legal and policy frameworks on sexual and reproductive health issues.

Centre for Solutions Journalism (CSJ) is implementing a project titled ‘Breaking the Barriers’ with other organisations namely, the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR, Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Alliance.