MALAWI. Lilongwe. A huge tug of war has ensued between religious leaders and proponents of the abortion law in Malawi, including human rights activists and medical experts.
The Malawi parliament is going to debate the controversial Termination of Pregnancy Bill during the current sitting, which will also include the passing of the country’s national budget among its assignments.
What the leaders are saying
The religious leaders under the banner Mother of Religious Bodies is comprised of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, (Catholic Bishops), Evangelical Association of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches,The Muslim Association of Malawi, and the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi.
They argue that both the Islamic and Christian faiths regard life as sacred.
“We condemn the proposed bill which seems to introduce direct abortion because it is gravely sinful. Life must be safeguarded with extreme care from conception. Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes,” reads part of the statement issued by the religious groups, made available to Transcontinental Times.
Part of the bill allows for abortion in situations where the life of either the mother or the fetus is in danger.
The Termination of Pregnancy Bill was brought to parliament in 2016, but efforts to have it passed were halted by demonstrations organised by religious groups.
But Dr. Benardette Malunga, of the Chancellor College law department in the University of Malawi based in Zomba, warns of observing caution when implementing the law if passed. She argues that the bill has not elaborated on what constitutes physical and mental threats and does not clearly define the term ‘unborn child’.
“I guess it will be at the interpretation of medical personnel. These elements, if left unchecked, can be prone to abuse,” she says.
Abortion is a contentious issue as it borders on the cultural and religious beliefs of the southern African country.
According to the Guttmarcher Institute, complications from abortions contribute to between 6 and 18 percent of maternal deaths in Malawi.
Source: Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Mother of Religious Bodies Statement.