Parliament Votes to Legalise Abortion in Republic of Benin

West Africa’s Benin¬†has voted to legalise abortion in most circumstances, the health ministry said on Thursday, becoming one of only a handful of African countries to do so.

Abortion was previously legal only in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s life was at risk, or if the unborn child had a particularly serious medical condition.

The new law says abortion may be permitted if the pregnancy is “likely to aggravate or cause a situation of material, educational, professional or moral distress incompatible with the interests of the woman and/or the unborn child”.

The law was passed on Wednesday night following a debate in parliament. It still needs to be ratified by the constitutional court before it takes effect.

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According to the Guttmacher Institute, a U.S.-based research organization. The law makes Benin a rarity in Africa. As of 2016, only Zambia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, South Africa and Tunisia had relatively liberal abortion laws.

Health Minister Benjamin Hounkpatin said, “this measure is going to ease the pain of many women who, faced with the distress of unwanted pregnancy, find themselves obliged to risk their lives by using unsafe abortion methods,”

He estimated that unsafe abortions are responsible for 20% of maternal deaths nationwide.

“(This law) will be welcomed by all the medical personnel who deal with complications from abortions on a daily basis,” Hounkpatin told reporters.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), teenage pregnancy is common in Benin and only about 12% of people use modern methods of contraception.

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