BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)— Malawi’s National Assembly has again dodged a motion to debate liberalizing the country’s strict law against abortion, which is only allowed if the mother’s life is at risk.
Despite thousands of Malawian women dying each year from unsafe abortions, on Thursday lawmakers were on cloud nine when Member of Parliament for Chiradzulu west who is also Chairperson for Health Committee of Parliament Mathews Ngwale withdrew the Abortion motion that was seeking the tabling of the Abortion bill.
The bill, pushed by activists since 2015, aimed to expand legal abortion from cases where the mother’s life is at risk to include rape, incest, fetal deformity, and threats to health.
Announcing the decision in Parliament, Ngwale said he came to the decision following resistance that the motion faced in the house.
Ngwale, added that he feel there is no much demand for the bill as women and girls themselves did not petition parliament pushing for the tabling of the bill.
Speaking to MIJ FM, monitored by Maravi Post, Ngwale said he has already discussed with stakeholders to return to the drawing board before taking the bill to parliament again.
Ngwale said the stakeholders now need to sensitize the communities on the importance of the bill for them to push their representatives in the National Assembly to accept the bill.
Reacting to this, Ken Mtago one of the activists advocating for the bill, said stakeholders discussed with Ngwale before the decision was made public and that they agreed to return to the drawing board.
Mtago said, very soon they will start sensitization meetings with communities to inform them of the bill.
The current 160-year-old law criminalizes abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger, with offenders facing up to 14 years in jail.
Critics say the law leads to more than 140,000 backstreet abortions annually that cause 12,000 deaths, according to a joint study by Malawi’s College of Medicine and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute.
Countless other Malawian women are left permanently scarred.