Malawi moving towards legalising abortion

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Speaker of the National Assembly, Henry Chimunthu Banda, has expressed optimism on the passage of law on legal availability of abortion services in the country as opposed to the current situation where the service is accessed only on medical grounds.

Banda said there have been other issues which attracted serious criticism from other quarters such as the clergy but the criticism seems to be dying down now.

He said, for example, it has not been easy to convince the clergy on use of condoms.

He however said a meeting he had recently with some members of the clergy showed opinion on the matter is changing.

“It hasn’t been easy to convince men and women of the collar to accept usage of condoms as one way of fighting HIV and Aids.

“Likewise, the fight against unsafe abortion won’t be easy. I am hopeful that a day shall come when we shall be there,” said Banda in a statement on Friday at an interface meeting between Members of Parliament and health officials.

The meeting was organised by Ipas, a non-governmental organisation which is advocating against unsafe abortion.

Currently, there is a draft bill on safe abortion waiting to be tabled in Parliament.

The meeting attracted presentations from gaenaecologists Dr Grace Chiudzu and Dr Edgar Kuchingale, law expert Tinyade Kachika and human rights activist Seodi White.

According to Chiudzu’s presentation, under the 1939 Penal Code, legal abortion is limited to situations where it is necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life.

However, when a woman decides that she does not want the pregnancy, she will do anything to terminate that pregnancy irrespective of what the law says, hence unsafe abortions.

She further said the conflict between law and policy is another aspect which is fuelling unsafe abortions.

“Constitutionally marriages are allowed between ages 15 and 18 while policy discourages teenage pregnancies,” reads part of her presentation.

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