The ongoing debate over Termination of Pregnancy Bill has exposed the insincerity of those opposing it.
With few exceptions, they are not aware of the proposed law itself. They bring in issues that are either not in the Bill or what it outlaws. This is dishonesty!
While ignorance can be a defence in public defence, the proficiency of those making insincere representation of the Bill cannot be excused.
Currently, government allows termination of any pregnancy only when the life of the mother is in danger.
This restrictive law is generally accepted by those opposing the Bill, conceding that some life may be terminated for the survival of another.
However, the proposed law to make termination of pregnancy legal and safe only adds further grounds for termination of pregnancy.
They include cases of rape, defilement, and incest; gross foetal malformations incompatible with extra-uterine life; cases where the continuation of the pregnancy may jeopardise the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman.
Section 3 of the Bill states: “Except as provided in this section, termination of pregnancy shall not be performed on demand or for any other reason.”
Saying that the Bill allows people to terminate pregnancies willy-nilly is unfounded and baseless. But this is the key feature of insincerity by those opposing a bill that is not the ToP Bill.
Why is it that still we see many women and girls who worship with us aborting?
Are the men and boys responsible for these pregnancies unbelievers? Is religion alone without secular legislation an effective tool of influencing people’s behaviour?
Has anyone close to us not died of unsafe abortion?
Do we not know religious leaders whose concubines have had abortions?
Should the thirteen-year-old who aborts after being defiled by her own uncle be condemned to death?
The well-to-do are having it safe. Sadly, the poor have no good story to tell. When done unsafely, most of them end up with complications that include deaths, disabilities and removal of body parts, including the womb.
In 2009, the Ministry of Health’s magnitude study showed that about 70 000 cases of abortions happen annually and 30 000 cases reported with complications.
The College of Medicine is conducting a similar study and the current figures are likely to be higher.
These poor women and girls in rural areas are but condemned to suffer. They die and become more startling statistics while the debate over abortion continues as usual.
The Maputo Protocol of 2006 urges all African countries to review their termination of pregnancy laws to reduce maternal mortality. Malawi, rightly signed up to this.
Those who have read the Bill should ponder on the ‘positivities’ of the somewhat restrictive stipulations endorsed by religious representatives on the Special Law Commission on the Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws that crafted the proposed law. Even the Catholic Church had representation!
Women always procure abortions worldwide regardless of existing bans. They have always done so since time immemorial.
The restrictive laws are never wholly deterrent, but just condemn the poor women and girls to pain, suffering, mutilations and needless deaths.
Malawi needs to liberalise abortions to reduce up to 17 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the country.
But the Bill does not even allow this.
Yet it appears those masquerading as opponents to the Bill, realise that the best for Malawi is a more liberal legislation, but they fully support the proposed Bill.
We suspect their loud voice is just another way of telling the nation that “We like the Bill as it is; please maintain article 3”
This too is insincerity. n