The illegality of legalising abortion in Malawi

Some countable months ago, Seodi White, the Executive Director of Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA) dragged the Malawi government to court over abortion rights. White simply wanted the government to give women freedom to abort at their own choice. In her own words White said, “It’s a pity that government has shown some hesitancy in trying to address this issue…WILSA wants the law open up and allow certain circumstances to be considered in order to prevent poor girls and women from resorting to unsafe abortions that put their lives at a huge risk.”

In responding to White’s action, Peter Qeko Jere in his article “Responding to WILSA-Malawi Abortion Issue” stated that the WILSA’s Director had tarnished the good image of Malawi’s God fearing society. Jere’s arguments were built on the premise that life and rights begin at conception and should therefore be protected right away in the womb of the mother.

In this brief article I would like side with Jere position by emphatically pointing out that White’s action was not just shameful but also illegal in the courtroom of God. I will argue that the foetus in the womb of its mother is not merely some human substance but rather a separate individual with all rights to live.

Seodi: Right to abort

Let me begin by highlighting the stance of Malawi’s law on abortion. The country’s penal code (149 and 150) prohibits abortion in any case except when the life of the mother is under serious threat. Although the law is old, it was framed wisely under serious consideration of Malawi’s cultural ethical codes of conduct and religious beliefs. Thus in Malawi, within the context of Sexual and Reproductive Health, abortion is not promoted. The legal framework only supports it in very special circumstances as determined by a medical expert.

Currently, it can be observed that pressure to review the law is being intensified not because of the law’s failure to protect women’s rights but due to the increased bandwagon of human rights organisations that are determined to value rights at the expense of life itself. Before we can talk of protecting human rights we should first of all talk of protecting human life itself. Human life is sacred, can never be bought or replaced and therefore has to be protected at all cost.

An undefiled human conscious would agree that abortion is clearly a form of murder and therefore considering it as illegal is absolute rationality. By definition abortion is simply understood as the deliberate expulsion of the non-viable human being from the mother’s womb by human intervention, whether by killing him before removal from the womb or whether by exposing him to a certain death outside the womb

Proponents of abortion also known as the pro-choice argue that the foetus within the woman is just a nonhuman mass of tissue which is part of the woman’s body. They say that since it is not known when hominization or ensoulment (beginning of life) takes place, the foetus can be likened to any of the woman’s organs. According to them every woman has absolute autonomy over her body therefore she may get rid of it if it pleases her to do so.

This thinking is fundamentally propagated by Western secular ethics which has an individualistic worldview. The popular conviction here is that the law should leave to the individual conscious choice about those acts that are private, do not command a moral consensus, and are not harmful to others. Thus extensive legalisation of abortion in western and other countries has been based on this presupposition. Here a woman is given freedom to do whatever she wants with her pregnancy. The woman is considered to have rights while the foetus is considered to be nonhuman hence without rights.

In my thinking the above line of thought is tactfully wicked and intended to destroy a lot of lives. That the foetus is part of the woman’s organs is very untrue. Scientifically it has been proven that the foetus in the womb is growing and being formed as a separate individual with a unique identity and an existence distinctively his or her own.

Suzan Foh argues, “that the foetus is part of his mother’s body has no physiological justification. He has his own unique genetic code, a combination of his mother’s and father’s genes. He has a separate nervous system and circulation system and his own skeleton, musculature, brain, heart and other vital organs.”

The fact that the foetus begins to grow immediately after conception entails that hominization takes place at conception. Thus the foetus has rights applying to every human being in general. All the essential characteristics of a human being that a foetus has equate it to a full human being. Thus killing a foetus is morally the same as killing an adult human being. It is a form of bloodshed and murder (homicide).

This conception also concurs with what the bible depicts on pregnancy. The bible shows that a pregnant woman carries a full human being from conception. In Jeremiah 1:5 God speaks to the prophet and says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you as a prophet to the nations.” Thus a far as God is concerned every pregnancy carries a full life, a real child with a mission and destiny.

In the New Testament this is substantiated by the story of Mary the mother of Jesus. Mathew 1:18 says, “…After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Here scripture indicates that pregnancy is not just some human substance but a child who has to be protected and taken care of.

This therefore brings me to my point that White’s action was not just shameful but also illegal in the courtroom of God. God values human life above all things he created and he expects us to honour, cherish and protect it. If one today or tomorrow rise up and begins to push government to give freedom of terminating life that God freely gives, one has to know that it is not just the government that is being dragged to court but God himself. The consequences of such actions are clearly stipulated in the Devine Penal Code, “s/he who destroys life shall also be destroyed eternally.”

Let me rest my case by emphatically saying that life begins at conception as such must be valued and protected. Though abortion is the largest surgical operation being conducted in world today, we Malawians are not ready to legalise it. We will value, protect and support human life from conception to death!!


Fourth year Education student at Chancellor College 

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