Source: Nyasa Times
Some chiefs in the Southern Region have backed an amendment of the abortion law that allows for the termination of unwanted pregnancies under certain conditions and are persuading members of Parliament to pass the Termina pf Pregnancy Bill when it is tabled for debate during the current sitting of the National Assembly.
Under the yet to be enacted Termination of Pregnancy Bill, expectant mothers in Malawi would be afforded the opportunity to seek abortion in certain circumstances, without having to resort to backstreet procedures that have led to the death of scores of women.
These circumstances include, rape, incest or defilement or when the pregnancy poses a threat to the woman's health or when there is evidence of a severe malformation of the foetus.
Chief Chikumbu from Mulanje and other traditional leaders including Chief Govati of Mwanza, Chimombo of Nsanje, back the idea of allowing safe abortions after they held a day-long meeting in Blantyre.
"Many women are dying from complications that could be prevented if we make our laws restrictive," said Chikumbu.
A 23- year-old Olivia Mfalinya is excited about the chief's support on abortion.
"Most women who are raped or impregnated will have a choice whether to keep the pregnancy or not, "Mfalinya said. "It is painful to sometimes keep the pregnancy when you don't know the man or that man is on the run. So, such laws will be necessary."
Chiradzulu West legislator Mathews Ngwale, who is Parliamentary Health Committee chairperson, is listed to table the highly contentious Bill.
Ngwale argues that relaxing the abortion law will give women freedom to seek safe abortion without fear of being prosecuted.
Under Malawi's penal code, abortion is illegal. However, studies show that the number of Malawian women treated every year for complications arising from unsafe procedures is on the rise. One reason for the increase is that more women are resorting to crude methods, such as using unsterilized instruments to abort.
In addition to that, the use of contraceptives is prohibited in Malawi and this means that more young women are likely to have unwanted pregnancies.
Despite restrictive abortion laws, over 141 000 women induce abortion every year in Malawi, according to findings of a Strategic Assessment of Unsafe Abortion in Malawi (2009).
Religious Network for Choice (RNC), a group that promotes freedoms and human rights, also supports the Bill.