Parliamentarians in Benin have voted to legalise abortion in the West African country, where it was already authorised under restricted conditions.
Under the new law passed late on Wednesday women can terminate a pregnancy within the first three months 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 authorised if pursing the pregnancy “threatened the life of the mother”, was “the result of a rape or incest” or, when “the unborn child has a particularly severe affection”.
After a heated debate in parliament, with some lawmakers strongly opposed to legalising abortion further, the amendment finally passed.
“In Benin, nearly 200 women die each year as the result of abortion complications,” said the health minister, Benjamin Hounkpatin, in a statement 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,” he added.
The influential Episcopal Conference of Benin said in a statement that it was “highly preoccupied by the proposed law to legalise abortions.”