Abortion debate goes to university students

University students from several constituent colleges in Malawi have been called up to mull over an idea on the need for Malawi to liberalize laws on abortion which is currently restrictive.

The call was made after a panel discussion on abortion held on Saturday in Lecture Theatre One at Malawi College of Medicine which was attended by students from various universities of Malawi.

Currently abortion is only restricted to mothers whose life would be in danger if allowed to carry on with the pregnancy up to the time of delivery. Except under such circumstances abortion is generally punishable by law.

Kuchingale, Unsafe abortion is second leading cause of maternal death

The panel discussion titled ‘Abortion in Malawi: Ethics, Legislation and Way Forward’ was organized by a medical rights advocacy group known as Medical Rights Watch and was patronized by an audience of medical students (from College of Medicine), law students (from Chancellor College) and nursing students.

No murder

It was observed that the abortion laws which Malawi is currently using were imposed by the colonialists in 1930 while the British have themselves reviewed them twice.

“The question we should be asking ourselves now is; Why are we still clinging to the legislation which was imposed on us while the owners abandoned it?” queried Godfrey Kangaude one of those who made their presentations during the event.

Dr Edgar Kuchingale, a gynecologist at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital, said recent research has shown that unsafe abortion is the second leading cause of death among pregnant mothers.

He said this is mainly because of complication from unsafe abortions due to the bad laws on abortion which Malawi has.

In his argument over what other people think that abortion is murder, Kuchingale said abortion could not be considered to be murder because by Malawi tradition a fetus   is refered to as chinthu  (a thing) and not a person.

Francis Masiye a lecture in Bio-ethics blamed the country for its conservative approach on the issue of abortion.

He said there is no justifiable reasons why “we should cling to the laws that restrict abortion services to few.”

Masiye said what people should know is that with or without restrictive law no one would stop a woman from aborting the pregnancies if he wills.

“This is personal thing. What we are trying to say is we should create a conducive environment for such women to carry out abortion where could not develop fatal complications”

However, most students especially girls were seen nodding their heads throughout the discussion  in agreement on the need to soften abortion laws although they did not openly support the move apparently because of the stigma which is associated with abortion in Malawi.

Other professionals and academicians who made their presentations which were also in support for the need to reform Malawian laws in abortion are Eric Umar a lecture at College of Medicine, Keith Lipato, a lecture at Mulanje School of Nursing, Chikosa Banda a lecturer at Chancellor College and Gift Sibade a human rights lawyer.

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