After a successful Abortion Bill demonstration this week, government unsuccessfully tried to put up a PR spin this week by saying there is no Abortion Bill to be tabled in Parliament. In a press statement, signed by government spokesperson and Minister of Information Malison Ndau on Tuesday, government said the truth of matter is that the Law Commission has developed a report and made a recommendation to government to adopt a new law on abortion.
Ndau further said the law on abortion is governed by the Penal Code, saying Sections 149, 150, 151 and 243 of the Penal Code prohibit termination of pregnancy except where the life of the mother is threatened. He further says the Penal Code underwent review and the Law Commission came up with a recommendation in 2000 to empanel another Special Law Commission to review the sections with termination of pregnancy after clearly acknowledging the need to do so.
In short, government says the new report is yet to be submitted to Cabinet.
According to Ndau, Reports of the Law Commission are mere recommendations to government and that it is the prerogative of Cabinet to adopt or reject them.
There is nothing wrong in saying all this. The fact of the matter, however, is that the Law Commission does not spend millions of the tax-payers money without the blessings or authority of the Executive to do so. And the top most body of the Executive arm of the government is the Cabinet. In short, Cabinet recommended to the Law Commission to review the existing laws on abortion to prepare the ground for the Abortion Bill. And as Government is rightly saying it can adopt or reject it. This, however, does not negate the presence of the proposed Bill.
The issue at hand is, therefore, not whether there is an Abortion Bill ready to be tabled in Parliament or not, but whether there is a proposed Abortion Bill on the cards. And the fact of matter is that government has seen that it cannot win this Bill. But failing to do so would further exacerbate government’s weak position. Government is already heavily stacked with insurmountable socio-economic problems, such as rising inflation, never ending power outages, water shortage, drug stock outs, rampant corruption and theft in high offices, an underperforming public service, to mention but a few.
To control damage, government, albeit unsuccessfully tried to find a way of showing that the demonstration against the proposed bill was based on misinformation.
For one thing, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi and the Evangelical (ECM) and the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) which organised the demonstrations did not just wake up one morning and went onto the streets to express their displeasure against the proposed Bill. The campaign against the proposed Bill started over a month ago. The statement on the demonstrations was widely publicised nationwide in the print and on electronic media.
If government really wanted to inform the public about its stand and stop the so-called misleading information it should have immediately issued a statement when ECM and EAM issued their statement. Government should not have waited for the demonstration to take place and then issue the statement. What is coming out clearly here is that the demonstrations have exposed government’s underbelly and the only way out for it is to control damage. Unfortunately, it is too late.
Whereas previously demonstrations were being organised by a few people which government could successfully manipulate or foil, the anti-abortion march has shown that government will not always have its way on everything.
Too bad indeed if government promised the leaders of the new world order that it would turn Malawi into a secular State. The PR spin has failed. This demonstration is a tell-tale warning of worse things to come.