Religious leaders in the country have opened up to debate on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill (ToPB), saying thousands of women and girls continue to fall into the trap of unsafe abortions.
The leaders said this on Friday at the end of a two-day meeting of religious leaders on abortion organised by the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) in Mangochi.
MCC acting general secretary Bishop Gilford Matonga said the meeting was prompted by the steps taken by Ministry of Health (MoH) to initiate a discussion on the law on abortion.
“Over the years, the religious community has believed that abortion is for sinners and sex workers, but now we have realised that most victims are respectable women and girls in our congregations. It is, therefore, critical for the church to play a role in solving this problem,” he said.
On MCC’s position, Matonga said although the religious stand still remains ‘no’ to abortion, the discussion exposed that the church and its leaders are in agreement that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
He said: “The focus now is what could be the best option in saving women and girls dying from unsafe abortions. The meeting has also noted that despite contraceptives being the best solution, the service is not accessible to everyone. We should, therefore, consider the new law.”
Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi said there is need to allow for discussions on abortion to continue.
He said: “All things being equal, we should not go this route. But knowing that there are so many cases of defilement and that lives of young girls are in danger, yes, we may go that route. We may not stand by the law, but allow it to help face the challenge we are facing.”
Vice-moderator for Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Blantyre Synod the Reverend Edna Navaya described statistics on abortion as a crisis.
“The meeting has helped us to understand the extent of the problem and it is evident among participants that we are now appreciating the need for the law so that we do not continue losing our girls and women to unsafe abortion. The fact that most victims are our church members urges to act soberly on the issue,” she said.
About 50 religious leaders, including two from the Muslim community, attended the meeting and agreed to come up with recommendations on the bill.
ToPB allows safe abortion, especially when life of either the unborn or mother is at risk.
A 2009 MoH research on abortion titled Magnitude and Incidences of Unsafe Abortion indicates that every year, Malawi registers over 70 000 abortions, with over half of them being unsafe.
College of Medicine is working on research on the same and one of the researchers, Dr Chisale Mhango, says preliminary findings indicate the figures have shot up.