Malawi: Abortion Bill in Parliament On Thursday As Malawi As Churches Oppose

Fetus. Abortion. Baby. Unborn. Abortion.
10 March 2021

The Malawi Parliamentary Health Committee says it will present and move a motion of the Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) bill on Thursday, March 11 2021 in the Parliament which will also be presented as a Private Member's Bill respectively in the face of opposition from faith groups.

If passed, the termination of pregnancy bill would allow abortions when a woman's mental or physical health is in danger, in cases of rape and incest, and when there are serious foetal abnormalities.

Currently, abortion is only permitted to save a woman's life and campaigners have been lobbying for change for many years.

MP Matthews Ngwale, Chairperson of the Committee, disaid during a meeting which was organised by a young women led advocacy and service delivery youth organisation called Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE) in collaboration with Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and Alliance for Youth Organisations in Malawi (AYSO) at Hotel Victoria in Blantyre that change was needed after "observing that there are an ever increasing number of justifiable situations for the termination of unwanted pregnancies, which have not been covered by existing law".

The meeting which also engaged different religious leaders, Chief's, non governmental organisations, members of the media as well as health experts was organised in order to hear how Ngwale is prepared to present the bill and get to know other support that he may need from the people.

Speaking in an interview with Nyasa Tines, Ngwale emphasized that his committee is geared to present the bill and he is very confident that the Parliament will adopt the bill which he said once it becomes a law will help to prevent the increased number of girls and women who are dying due to issues of unsafe abortion.

He said many people think that they want to make abortion in its entirety] legal or allow abortion on demand.

"But abortion is already allowed in our laws and what we're doing is to increase the situations where this can be allowed.

"Our committee has done a massive sensitizing and consultation meetings with fellow legislators, members of the communities, Church leaders, traditional leaders, who were failing to understand this bill, and I am very glad that so far majority of them have opened up their eyes and are now able to know the importance of this bill.I've full confidence that once the bill is presented in parliament it will receive a massive support and the legislators will allow it to be discussed," said Ngwale.

He further mentioned that previously parliament meetings some members were against the bill due to political will but currently they have realised what it is talking about which he said will assist the motion to have enough support.

In his remarks, Paramount Chief Kawinga of Machinga commended Ngwale for showing much interest on the need of implementing the bill which he said will play a positive role in saving lives of many girls and women who are dying due to the complications that arises due to the practice of unsafe abortion.

"Let me take this opportunity to urge my fellow chiefs to support this bill and take a leading role in sensitizing members of the communities by being on the forefront in educating them on the goodness of implementing this bill so that the increase deaths involving our young girls and women can become thing of the past," said Chief Kawinga.

Islamic Commission for Justice and Freedom (ICJF) chairperson Shaibu Abdul Rahman Ajasie said:" We are expressed excitement that after fighting for the bill for a long time it will finally be tabled in the Parliament. This is what we have been waiting for and it our hope and expectation that parliamentarians who are also our policy makers will welcome the motion."

FOCESE Gender and Protection Manager Titani Magalasi said commended the Parliamentary Committee and other partners for showing commitment in making sure that the bill is taken into Parliament for discussion.

"This is a good news to us and we'll continue bringing new strategies that can help to make the bill to be included in the laws of Malawi," said Magalasi.

The Episcopal Conference of Malawi, the Evangelical Association of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches and the Muslim Association of Malawi have long resisted any attempt to change the law. Attempts to introduce the bill in 2016 were rejected after protests.

Henry Saindi, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference, said: "It is only God who can give or take life irrespective of whatever circumstance that has happened. Human life remains sacred and it must be preserved, promoted and defended.

"The bill does not reflect our values, our culture and our aspirations as the nation."

Brian Ligomeka, director of the Centre for Solutions Journalism, a human rights media organisation that has been lobbying for the bill, said the legal changes would save lives.

"The debate about abortion is not about right or wrong, sin or righteousness, as some assume. It is about how to save the desperate woman who wants to induce an abortion using toxic substances or dangerous objects."

Losing thousands of women every year to abortion "should move our MPs to pass the law", he said.

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