Female lawmakers in the country have vowed to reject the Termination of Pregnancy Bill if it is tabled during the current sitting.
Those who spoke to Weekend Nation this week said if only women MPs were to decide on the Bill, it would not even garner a quarter of their votes.
“So long as the Bill is to do with abortion, it is a straight ‘No’ vote for me,” said Joyce Chitsulo, who represents Mwanza West. She said as a mother, she cannot debate on issues to do with any loss of life. She fell pregnant while in secondary school.
“I did not abort. I just could not and I am proud of my choice. Of the three children I have, the first is my daughter, born out of that pregnancy.
“Today, I find my decision even more fulfilling that she is an accomplished professional midwife herself,” the parliamentarian said.
Chikwawa West legislator Susan Dossi agrees that ‘life is sacred’ and to support the Bill would be against her conscience. Mangochi Central legislator Victoria Kingstone will also reject the Bill.
She said: “It is an outright ‘No’ from me. I am a practicing Catholic and my church does not encourage even contraceptives. As such, I cannot do anything against my conscience.
“Besides that chiefs in my constituency are also against termination of pregnancy. So as their representative I cannot go against their wishes.”
So far, 24 of the 43 female legislators in the august House have opposed the Bill in a random poll conducted this week.
In the South, 13 of the sampled 24 women lawmakers vowed to reject the Bill. Seven were undecided and four would not be reached.
While in the Centre, nine of the 15 women lawmakers opposed the Bill. Two were undecided while three could not be reached. One one from Dowa said she would vote ‘Yes’.
In the North’s three legislators, two said they would vote ‘No’, while one personally supports the Bill.
However, she said she would vote ‘No’ if it is tabled in Parliament.
“It would be impossible for me to vote for the Bill because people in my area regard abortion as a sin and evil,” said Mzimba East legislator, Wezzie Gondwe.
Five districts have no female representative in Parliament. These are Chitipa, Mwanza, Neno, Karonga and Likoma.
Why the Bill
The proposed Bill is lobbying for the safe termination of pregnancy where it poses a threat to the life of a woman, or it as a result of incest or rape among others.
The current law only provides for termination of pregnancy where the life of a woman is in danger.
Studies by gynaecologists at the College of Medicine and US-based Guttimacher Institute show that almost 141 000 pregnant Malawian women every year end up taking a clandestine abortion.
These unsafe abortions claim lives of up to 18 in every 100, according to the Magnitude Study by the Ministry of Health.
Such a trend cannot be allowed to continue, argues Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Mathews Ngwale, who plans to table the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in the current sitting of Parliament in Lilongwe.
“I feel duty-bound as a member of Parliament to move the Bill to stop these preventable deaths. As legislators, we have a duty to protect our people and unsafe abortion,” he told The Nation on September 9.
Ngwale has the support of various advocacy groups, including the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (Copua)—a fierce campaigner of the proposed Bill.
Copua claims the country has a high prevalence of death from unsafe abortions, a thing that needs to be addressed.