Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortions (Copua) has dared the clergy opposing the Termination of Pregnancy Bill’s passing by Parliament to read the contents of the legislation to see that it does not promote abortions anyhow.
Copua chairperson Emma Kaliya in an interview on Sunday said reading the Bill will help the clergy make an informed decision on the matter.
Besides the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) General Assembly, other groups opposing the Bill include the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Evangelical Association of Malawi, Public Affairs Committee and Muslim Association of Malawi.
Said Kaliya: “We are not saying that the Bill allows women to procure abortions anyhow, there are restrictions. Most of those opposing the Bill are men. Why are they denying women their rights?”
The outspoken activist also reminded those opposing the Bill that the Penal Code already allows the act.
Sections 149, 150, and 151 of the Penal Code criminalise unlawful administering of substances to a woman for abortion, self-administering of substances for abortion and supplying drugs or instruments to procure abortion, while Section 243 permits abortion only if it the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life.
During a Standing Committee Meeting last Thursday in Mzuzu, the CCAP General Assembly equated passing the Bill to “authorising murder” and urged parliamentarians to reject it.
The assembly comprises the synods of Nkhoma, Blantyre and Livingstonia in Malawi, Harare in Zimbabwe and Lusaka in Zambia.
Ironically, Zambia’s Termination of Pregnancy Act provides broader grounds under which abortition is legal.
In a statement after the meeting, the assembly, through General Secretary the Reverend Mwawi Chilongozi and Moderator the Reverend Bizwick Nkoma said those advocating for abortion need to be punished.
It reads: “The CCAP General Assembly derives its ultimate authority from the inspired Word of God. Abortion is sin and against our Christian faith and belief. We, therefore, strongly ask the lawmakers not to pass the Abortion Bill on behalf of the Malawi nation.”
In an earlier interview, Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Matthews Ngwale also said they were not introducing a new law, but providing additional exceptions.
He said owing to Malawi’s high maternal mortality rate, Malawi Law Commission (MLC) conducted a research and later made recommendations to the Ministry of Health on what could be done to reduce the maternal death rate.
“The current law only allows abortion if it is to save the life of a woman, but we want to expand the grounds on the same law,” said Ngwale, adding women’s lives can be saved if this Bill is passed.
A 2008 Ministry of Health Magnitude Study shows that over 100 000 women and girls undergo abortion every year and 33 000 of these develop serious complications whose treatment costs the country around K300 million annually.