The Termination of Pregnancy Bill also known as the Abortion Bill has dominated the headlines on Saturday with reports that female lawmakers and most Northern Region legislators have vowed to reject the piece of legislation if it is tabled during the current sitting.
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.
The Weekend Nation newspaper reported on Saturday that it conducted a survey – which has revealed that 113 members of Parliament (MPs) out of 141, or 80 percent will reject the Bill if Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Mathews Ngwale, will table the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in the current sitting of Parliament in Lilongwe.
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.
But both Christianity and Islam – the country’s biggest religions – are diametrically opposed to anything that challenges the sanctity of life.
Several faith groups have also spoken against the Bill. They include the General Assembly of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Public Affairs Committee (PAC), and Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM).
Reporting about its poll survey, the Weekend Nation, said 24 of the 43 female legislators in the august House have opposed the Bill .
“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 in quotes reported by the paper.
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.”
In interviews with the Northern Region legislators, most of them indicated that they would not be supporting the Bill.
Chitipa Wenya’s Davis Ng’ambi and his Chitipa South counterpart, Werani Chilenga, said the Bill was ‘devilish’ and would not be supported.
Chilenga said abortion was “devilish, barbaric, satanic and it can only happen over my dead body. The people of Chitipa South reject it.”
Mzimba South East legislator Ackson Kalaile-Banda said would not support the Bill.
In quotes reported by the paper, Rumphi East legislator Kamlepo Kaluwa said: “I don’t support the Bill, and I won’t because supporting it is more like authorising killing, so Rumphi East will not support that Bill.”
MP for Mzimba East, Wezzie Gondwe said, while she personally supports the Bill, but it would be impossible for her to vote for it because people in her area regard abortion as a sin and evil, so she will vote against it.
Nkhata Bay Central legislator Symon Vuwa Kaunda said: “I am a Christian, and the people I represent do not want the Bill. So, no to it! I know fellow MPs have been getting allowances on meetings aimed at supporting the Bill, but I haven’t been attending them. I don’t want it and the people I represent reject it.”
In it’s extended coverage, the paper in an editorial comment said there is need for massive civic education for all stakeholders on the Bill.
“For example, it is imperative that law makers take time to read it and understand it so that they can appreciate it. Otherwise those rejecting it now might be doing so out of ignorance . And they may just be throwing away the baby with bath water,” reads the editorial in conclusion.
Ngwale agrees that. ignorance is fuelling rejection of the Bill, admitting that even some legislators do not understand its contents.