Benin lawmakers have voted to legalize abortion in the country, expanding on the restricted circumstances where the practice was already allowed.
Women can now end their pregnancy within the first three months in cases where it could “aggravate or cause material, educational, professional or moral distress, incompatible with the woman or the unborn child’s interest”.
Before, abortion was only legally allowed in limited situations such as rape or incest cases, or if the mother’s life was threatened.
It was also allowed in cases where the unborn child’s health would be severely affected.
The new law, passed on Wednesday night after a heated debate in parliament, still needs to be ratified by the constitutional court before it takes effect.
Health Minister Benjamin Hounkpatin lauded the new law, saying it would ease the pain for many women with unwanted pregnancies who “find themselves obliged to risk their lives by using unsafe abortion methods”.
“In Benin, nearly 200 women die each year as the result of abortion complications,” he said.
Abortion without restriction can only be offered in four out of 54 African countries – Cape Verde, Mozambique, South Africa and Tunisia – but with gestational limits.