Members of Parliament as individuals and Parliament as a bloc, recently decided on two things. One very critical, and which may affect the lives of many Malawians for many years to come. This is the MPs’ stand on the abortion Bill. They overwhelmingly rejected the Bill in a poll this paper carried. The other issue was about a donation of 206 000 condoms to Parliament. MPs also rejected the donation after The Nation reported about it.
Both the Bill and the condom donation were controversially meant to save lives. But rejecting the condoms because the donation and its publicity were giving MPs a bad name was petty.
In a poll this paper conducted, 80 percent of the legislators said they would reject the Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Some 18 percent were undecided while 1.4 percent said they would vote yes for the Bill which is expected to be tabled in the House during the current session of Parliament. Eighty percent rejection is massive. I can’t think of what the pro-abortionists will do to turn the tables. But miracles happen. After all this was just a poll. I wish them good luck.
The Bill seeks to legalise abortion of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. Currently, the law only allows termination of a pregnancy if it threatens the life of a woman. In essence, the Bill seeks to broaden the scope, space as well as to capacitate the environment for abortion. It’s a not a new thing at all. But owing to the poor manner in which it has been sold to members of the public, it is as if the Bill is new beast that Satan, whose works are to steal, kill and destroy, has just dropped on people to conflict their morals and religious doctrines—the belief in the sanctity of life.
Pro-abortionists argue that in its current form, over 70 000 women and girls in Malawi die every year trying to procure abortions but using unsafe ways because the law does not give them an enabling environment to carry out abortions safely. They contend that whether people like it or not if Parliament rejects it, thousands of women will continue to abort even as the law criminalises it.
Anti-abortionists, however, argue that legalising abortion would be giving women and girls license to kill their children willy-nilly. They also quote the Bible in Jeremiah 1:5 where he (Jeremiah) reports that God knew him, appointed and set him apart even as he was in his mother’s womb, for a special task. Meaning that life starts long before a child is born, and, therefore, it is wrong to abort a pregnancy.
I believe it would have been easy for Parliament to pass the Bill had its sponsors done a good job on selling it. The first problem is the name of the Bill—Termination of Pregnancy Bill—as if it is a new bill. If the law already allows abortion under certain circumstances, the sponsors of the Bill should just have properly branded and marketed the expanded version of the Bill.
While MPs rejected the abortion Bill as individuals, it is the Malawi Parliament that rejected the donation of condoms. What was wrong with the donation? If you ask me, nothing—except the publicity! Condoms were donated in good faith. And it looks like this was not the first time Parliament has received such a donation from well-wishers. These are organisations which want to protect all manner of people who patronize Parliament Building.
What was wrong with this particular donation is the media blitz that the donors as well as National Assembly Secretariat occasioned the philanthropy. Some good things are better done away from the glare of publicity. It is the use of the condoms that would protect lives and not the publicity of the donation. The donor of those condoms should revise its communication strategy. Now with Parliament returning 206 000 condoms to the donor, it may have just failed to protect the lives of thousands of its residents and clients. n