The African Union Executive Council report has urged member countries such as Malawi to critically consider changing their abortion laws as a way of saving lives.

The report is in response to World Health Organisation estimates that while maternal mortality due to sepsis and other conditions in the southern part of Africa is at nine and 11 percent respectively, deaths due to unsafe abortion is a growing problem.

The development has pleased Ipas in Malawi, an organisation that looks into the promotion of maternal health of women, whose National Coordinator Crispine Sibande described the report as “encouraging and progressive” and a show that leaders are getting committed and making sure that women do not die of something that is preventable.

“It is important to support this initiative and make sure no single woman dies because of unsafe abortion. All stakeholders should start working on this matter immediately. Death is irreversible. We cannot continue losing the Malawian women on something we can prevent. We need to support government efforts on safe motherhood that includes addressing unsafe abortion. It is time to remove all barriers including reforming our laws.”

Sibande agreed that unsafe abortion contributes a lot to maternal mortality rate in many African countries “including Malawi” although there is a way on how women can be prevented from deaths from the unsafe practice.

The WHO findings of 2008 show unsafe abortions as accounting for 12 per cent maternal deaths in Southern Africa and Western Africa, and 18 percent in Eastern Africa with estimates 2.4 million unsafe abortions were carried out in Eastern Africa in 2008.

The world health body believes that an estimated 13,000 women die due to unsafe abortions in the region every year. In Western Africa, WHO, says some 1.8 million abortions took place and that around 28 unsafe abortions occurred out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age.

“In comparison, there were about 120,000 unsafe abortions in Southern Africa in 2008. Unsafe abortions also cause other long-term maternal disabilities, which do not even get documented,” reads part of the WHO findings.

With the exception of South Africa, which has liberalised abortion laws, all Sadc countries, including Malawi, have restrictive abortion laws which are forcing women to procure unsafe abortions employing insertion of objects into their private parts.

The AU council observes that only the removal of legal restrictions would pave the way for the provision of safe abortion services that would save many women’s lives.

The removal of legal restrictions is believed would facilitate provision

and uptake of post-abortion care, and that safe abortion services can significantly reduce maternal deaths such that the AU council is convinced that countries that have restrictive abortion laws should explore possibilities of reforming relevant policies.

The African Union Executive Council is a bi-annual congregation of ministers of foreign affairs or country representatives designated by governments of member states in accordance with African Union laws.

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