MALAWI – Parliament decides against debating the bill that had been waiting five years

Malawi’s National Assembly has rejected a motion to debate liberalizing the country’s strict law against abortion, which is only allowed if the woman’s life is at risk.  Despite thousands of Malawian women dying each year from unsafe abortions, lawmakers on Thursday unanimously rejected a motion even to debate the Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

The bill, written by safe abortion advocates in 2015, aimed to expand legal abortion from cases where the woman’s life is at risk only to include rape, incest, fetal deformity, and threats to health.  While technically it could be tabled against next week as a private member’s bill, Richard Chimwendo Banda, MP and Minister of Homeland Security, thought it was unlikely. The parliamentary session will be ending anyway on 26 March.

As has been reported many times, there are more than 140,000 backstreet abortions annually in Malawi that cause some 12,000 deaths, according to a joint study by Malawi’s College of Medicine and the Guttmacher Institute.

Words cannot express how disappointing this decision is, as the utter rejection of Malawian women’s health and lives, and women’s needs and rights it represents.

SOURCE: VOA News & Video, by Lameck Masina, 12 March 2021 ; PHOTO: Parliament from VOA video.