Why abortion bill in Malawi must be aborted

During a recent interaction with one of my collegueswhere we focused on the political economy dynamics surrounding the abortion issue, and how the public policy making space had been swiftly captured by a handful of arguably“powerful” non-state actors advancing their interests – and of course, their masters’ – at the expense of those of the majority Malawians who have beeneither left as mere spectators or in some instancestacitly coaxed to endorse the already skewed agenda through a skewed consultation process.

Discussing abortion law reforms
Discussing abortion law reforms

After a critical reflection on these matters, we came to a conclusion that it was in fact the “Abortion bill that needed aborting” – as ably put by one Dr. Zacc Kawala. And below are the reasons.

Firstly, the termination of pregnancy (termination of life) – with of course exceptional cases whereby a woman’s life is in real danger as already provided for by our current laws- even under the grounds where the pregnancy is as a result of rape, incest or defilement has no Biblical and human rights basis – that is if a Biblical perspective as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are brought into equation.

The international consensus documents like UDHR and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the right to life “before as well as after birth”. The CRC specifically in its preamble states: “The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”.

In addition,several scriptural passages including Jeremiah 1:4-5; and Psalms 139:5-6 talks about the value of life. While rape, incest or defilement is undesirable, evil and sinful in the eyes of God, nowhere in the Bible do we see God instructing believers to terminate a life that is conceived as a result of rape, incest or defilement. This is does not in any way suggest that God condones these undesirable and sinful acts.

But rather it signifies the fact that human life –starting from conception- is sacred before the eyes of God, and God is not willing to allow the killing of an innocent “unborn” life even under these undesirable circumstances. Justice demands that only perpetrators pay for their crimes. Spiritual and psychosocial therapy and support services, as well as options for care provision to children born from unwanted pregnancies should therefore be priotised under such circumstances.

Secondly, just recentlydoctors under Christian Medical and Dental Fellowshipwarned that while the wording in the proposed Abortion Bill may not be as liberal as the South African Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1996, the inclusion of a clause allowing termination on the grounds of preventing injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman has led other countries to effectively practice abortion on demand which the Law Commission have specifically stated they wanted to avoid.

According to UK government report, around 98% of the 6.7 million abortions performed in the United Kingdom since a liberalization in the abortion law in 1967 have taken place under this clause. It can therefore be stated that the inclusion of this clause in the proposed bill is a hidden abortion on demand because poverty, shame, unplanned pregnancy, getting kicked out of school can cause mental or physical health issues.

Lastly, the much claimed causal-effect relationship between the high prevalence of maternal mortality and unsafe abortion has tended to be wanting in several aspects especially when you consider the case studies of other African countries are brought into equation. For instance, despite having liberal abortion laws since 1996 it is reported that South Africa has had an alarming surge in maternal deaths.

On contrary, Mauritius and Egypt-with very restrictive abortion laws- are amongst the top performers by registering lowest maternal mortality ratio. The truth of the matteris that the majority of maternal deaths are due to a lack of basic healthcare. By improving access to, and the quality of, prenatal and postnatal healthcare in Malawi, the number of maternal deaths could be reduced significantly.

  • The author likes to comment on social governance issues and is the Advocacy Coordinator of Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM)

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