Activists say Malawi’s proposed abortion law will reduce maternal deaths

Kapyepye addresses panelists and participants during the panel discussion in Blantyre

The enactment of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill will reduce maternal mortality and help the country progress towards attaining Sustainable Development Goals on health and well-being, a reproductive health organisation has said.

The Malawi Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance made the observation during a panel discussion on the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill held at Kamuzu College of Health Sciences in Blantyre on Friday evening.

Unsafe abortions continue to affect women and girls. Some are suffering various complications, while others are dying. The provision of safe abortion services as proposed by the Law Commission in the Termination of Pregnancy Bill is one of the best solutions to the problem,” said Kapyepye, SRHR Alliance Youth Programme Coordinator.

A number of students and members of the public attended the panel discussion

She explained that it was important to break barriers that are preventing women from accessing safe abortions in health facilities.

“Let’s break the barriers and promote equity so that people can freely make their choices and have access to better sexual and reproductive health,” she said.

Speaking during the discussion, Mateyu Sisya, a member of the Legal Committee of the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion in Malawi (Copua), said it was important for the youth and members of the general public to understand the proposed abortion law.

“Currently, we have restrictive laws on abortion. The proposed bill has additional grounds that will enable women and girls who meet set criteria to access the service. Without understanding the law, one can fall into the trap of commenting on grounds that are not in the bill,” he said.

On her part, Dr. Florence Msosa, a medical practitioner, said Malawi continues to grapple with the problem of maternal deaths and all interventions aimed at addressing it.

“Many people in rural parts of our country still lack access to good healthcare services. The formulation of policies and laws that bridge such gaps requires our support. The proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill is such an intervention that can contribute to the reduction of maternal deaths,” she said.

Unsafe abortions contribute up to 18% of maternal deaths in Malawi and the country has over the years grappling with the problem, which if unsolved would result in Malawi finding itself facing a dilemma in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.

A consortium of Malawi human rights organisations namely Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre, Malawi Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation, Centre for Solutions Journalism and the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion are jointly implementing a social justice programme called Breaking the Barriers.

With support from AmplifyChange, the project aims to improve access to abortion and the SRHR legal environment in Malawi.