The Republic of Benin has voted to legalise abortion in the West African country, after a heated debate in parliament.
“In Benin, nearly 200 women die each year as the result of abortion complications,” Health minister Benjamin Hounkpatin said in a statement on Thursday, “This measure will be a relief for many women who face undesired pregnancies, and are forced to put their lives in danger with botched abortions.”
The minister said that complications from abortions were the cause of 20 per cent of maternal deaths in the country.
Under the new law passed late Wednesday, women can terminate a pregnancy within the trimester if it is likely to “aggravate or cause material, educational, professional or moral distress, incompatible with the woman or the unborn child’s interest”.
Previously, abortion was authorized in Benin only if the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother, if conception was as a the result of a rape or incest or in cases where the unborn child had health concerns.
Benin joins the few African countries that has decriminalized abortions for medical reasons. As of 2016, only Zambia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, South Africa and Tunisia had significantly liberal stances on abortion.