By: Happy Arnold Soko
Information sourced from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital by The Malawi Star has shown that close to 3,600 women practice induced abortion and seek help from the hospital thereafter.
A close source to this publication revealed that large number of women that practice unsafe abortion are girls under the age of twenty-two. Monthly, the hospital receives about 300 women or more who seeks abortion or come to be treated for abortion related problems.
“There are 10 to 15 women each day, coming for assistance especially because of abortions. Normally some arrives here while in a very critical condition due to induced abortion. Most women practice unsafe abortion because of the current bill which makes it illegal,” said the source.
“Government could have considered legalising it. Suppose we say that someone has been raped and she shouldn’t abort she might not be able to take care of the baby. Such conditions should be considered,” he added.
Despite education advocacy by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country, women are still using traditional means to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
A random interview by The Malawi Star has established that 90% of girls under the age of 20 are ignorant of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill.
In her remarks an 18years old Linda Nseula said the new abortion bill which advances the liberalization of abortion in the country still does not affect her since she has no knowledge of it.
She said whether making it legal or not, many girls will still practice the illegal abortion in the country.
“It’s a matter of geographical setup. Unprepared pregnancies always end up by termination in an illegal way. As girls, we always run away from seeking help from the hospital because of fear or shame,” she said.
Government has bemoaned the high prevalence of maternal mortality in Malawi and has identified unsafe abortion as one of the major contributing factors. However, Juliana Phiri trashed the remarks citing shortage of funding to the health sector is a major reason.
Speaking with The Malawi Star, Human Rights, Gender Activist Emma Kaliya said that they are advocating for the bill because many women are dying due to unsafe ways of aborting pregnancy.
The Gender Co-ordinating Network Chairperson said, “This law was there but they are reviewing other issues on abortion. So the law that is coming out is about The Termination of Pregnancy Bill and does not legalize abortion.
The current position of law is that abortion is illegal in Malawi except where it is performed to save the life of the pregnant woman through a surgical operation. The current law criminalizes all such acts of procuring or assisting in the procuring of miscarriage of pregnant women.
Under the Malawi Penal Code of 1930 (Sections 149-151), the performance of abortions is generally illegal. A person who unlawfully uses any means with intent to procure an abortion is subject to 14 years’ imprisonment.