6 December 2016

Malawi Govt Says There Is No Abortion Bill As Hundreds Join 'March for Life'

Photo: Daily Nation
Human embryo (file photo).

As hundreds of citizens took to the streets across Malawi on Tuesday to express their opposition to all forms of abortion and affirmed their support for the right to the natural family and the life of unborn children, government has said there in no 'Abortion Bill' that Parliament will debate.

Two of the country's major religious groups--Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM)-- organised the demonstrations following reports that Parliament will debate The Termination of Pregancy Bill to legalise abortion.

But Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Malison Ndau, who is also spokesman for the government, denies that there is an Abortion Bill ready for debate in the National Assembly.

"The truth of the matter is that the Law Commission has developed a Report and made recommendations to Government to adopt a new law on abortion.

"Currently, the law on abortion is governed by the Penal Code. Sections 149, 150, 151 and 243 of the Penal Code prohibit termination of pregnancy except where the life of the mother is threatened. This is the status of the law," explained Ndau in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.

Ndau, however, said the Penal Code underwent review and the Law Commission came up with its Report in 2000.

"In that Report, the Commission recommended to Government to empanel another special Law Commission to review comprehensively the sections dealing with termination of pregnancy after clearly acknowledging the need to do so.

"The Report, which is the subject of the present controversy, is the result of the work of this other Commission which focused on issues of unsafe termination of pregnancy. This Report is yet to be submitted to Cabinet through the Minister of Justice for Cabinet's consideration. This has not been done at this stage. It is important to emphasize that Reports of the Law Commission are merely recommendations to Government. It is the prerogative of Cabinet to adopt or reject any recommendations originating from the Law Commission," he said/

Ndau said any information that there is an abortion Bill ready for debate in parliament is "misleading."

But faith groups argued that the pro-life demonstrations were organised because life, family and marriage are under direct attack.

The organisers called the event 'historical'

"We cannot install a culture of death in our country," said one of a Catholic Christian who joined people donning all white t-shirts in the 'march for life'.

"I marched to say yes to life," Tarcicius Mbewe said.

EAM general secretary Reverend Francis Mkandawire and ECM counterpart Father Henry Saindi, said it was important to note that people support 'pro-life' advocacy.

Women's rights activists and champions of safe motherhood, argue that giving women more reasons to safely terminate pregnancies in health facilities will reduce maternal deaths and costs of treating complications of unsafe abortions.

However, pro-life agents, especially religious leaders, say this will promote killing. They preach that life begins at conception,

Ministry of Health estimates that government spends up to K300 million annually treating almost 70 000 who seek post-abortal care every year.

Keith Lipato, a nurse-cum-midwife in Mulanje, finds the existing law gender-biased, saying it "favours impregnators" who die of abortions.

He laments: "If you and I end up with an unwanted pregnancy today, we will quickly find tablets to eliminate it safely. But what will a helpless, rural girl use? Sticks? Wires? Poisons?"


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