Lilongwe – Some clerics under the banner if Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) are now backing a bill aimed at preventing unsafe abortions called Termination of Pregnancy Bill.
Termination of Pregnancy Bill awaits Parliament’s enactment.
Grounds for pregnancy termination in the bill include rape, incest, foetus deformation and pregnancies that endanger women’s lives or may cause mental or physical health complications.
Currently, abortion is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Malawi.
The church leaders want sections 149 to 151 of the penal code which criminalise abortion to be repealed in order to save lives of Malawian women who are dying after procuring illegal abortion.
Prophet Amos Tchuma of the Faith of God Ministeries based in the northern Malawi city of Mzuzu said if passed into law women will not seek backstreet abortions.
“Just imagine, some women use bicycle spokes, cassava sticks and poisonous substances to induce abortions just because we have a restrictive law.” Tchuma said
“Why should a schoolgirl, who has been raped, be jailed for terminating her unwanted pregnancy?” he asked.
The Chairperson of the Special Law Commission Justice Chombo informed the nation that Malawi opted for liberalizing the law, adding more grounds, rather than legalizing abortion.
“We will continue to preach that abortion is a sin but we appreciate government efforts of addressing maternal mortality caused by unwanted pregnancy. We appreciate that abortion is still illegal in Malawi as law commission has informed us,” said Chairperson of Malawi Council of Churches, Reverend Alex Benson Maulana.
Malawi Council of Churches is an umbrella organization for the 25 Christian Churches and 20 Para-church organizations in Malawi formed in 1942 to facilitate human transformation following the image of Christ, promoting holistic development, and fostering unity, peace, justice and love among the human race.
Speaking during the maternal health, human rights and access to safe abortion workshop in Mangochi, MCC Chairperson, who is also Secretary General of the Blantyre Synod, Maulana, said the church like the state, value life.
“Since we value life we cannot allow our women to die due to unsafe abortion this is why we are in fully support of law reform on abortion,” said Rev. Maulana.
“We are therefore asking our members of parliament to support the abortion law reform,” said Rev Maulana.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that over 70 000 women seek backstreet abortions each year, 31 000 of which result in complications, including death.
Abortions cause 17% of maternal deaths in Malawi while post-abortion care, which is offered in public hospitals, costs the government nearly $1m a year.
While Malawi waits for its lawmakers to enact the new law, most of its neighbouring countries, including Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa, have liberal abortion laws.