Clergy, Chiefs and Political Party Leaders Want Parliament to Pass Termination of Pregnancy Bill

By Alfred Mthandizi

Following heavy criticism from Civil Society Leaders that Members of Clergy, Chiefs and religious leaders are the ones toeing back Termination of pregnancy bill, the trios have finally decided to stand on their feet and distance themselves from the accusations.

In a joint statement which the trio signed following a two day indaba in Mzuzu the trio said they are aware how much Government is spending in post abortion care.
The trio said they are already aware and acknowledge that World Health Organization (WHO) has already provided guidance on how to address issues of unsafe abortion in countries like Malawi.
The Chiefs , religious leaders and political party leaders said it is not good to be pointing fingers at them as the ones delaying passing the bill and yet they know that Special Law Commission on Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws consisted of representatives from Judiciary, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Chiefs, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches, Muslim Association of Malawi, Law Society and College of Medicine and that together they proposed a bill on Termination of Pregnancy. “You can see that we were part of the process,”

Below is the verbatim of what they wrote in their statement.

The trios have since urged Parliament to discus and pass Termination of Abortion Bill in law. We, Chiefs, Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders and Political Leaders having met on 23rd and 24th November, 2017 here in Mzuzu and deliberated on issues of the problem of unsafe abortion and proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill in Malawi and reflecting research Studies magnitude on the unsafe abortion of Pregnancy in Malawi, current problems in our hospitals, money government is spending in managing abortion cases in hospitals here by issue this state at the end our meeting as state as follows:

The reviewing and passing of proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill is delaying and taking too long to be passed by Malawi Parliament.
We acknowledge that Malawi Government through the Malawi Law Commission empaneled a Special Law Commission of Abortion Laws in 2013 with the mandate of Reviewing All Laws on Termination of Pregnancy in Malawi and the Commission finished its work in July, 2015.

The Special Law Commission on Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws consisted of representatives from Judiciary, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Chiefs, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches, Muslim Association of Malawi, Law Society and College of Medicine and that together they proposed a bill on Termination of Pregnancy.
We appreciate and note that all important sectors in Malawi were part of the Special Law Commission. Nobody was excluded. Everybody agreed. This is a bill that was agreed by all Malawians.
We appreciate that Malawi Government through Ministry of Health carried out various research studies on Magnitude and Incidences of Unsafe Abortion, Strategic Assessment on Unsafe Abortion and Cost Study on providing post abortion care.

We note that per 2015 Research Study by College of Medicine in Malawi, 53% of all pregnancies in Malawi are unintended, 141,000 abortions occur every year, 30-40% of admissions in gynecological wards in hospitals are due to abortion related cases and 18% of maternal mortality is due to unsafe abortion.
We acknowledge that World Health Organization (WHO) has already provided guidance on how to address issues of unsafe abortion in countries like Malawi. We note with deep concern that unsafe abortion remains one of the top five causes of maternal mortality and morbidity in Malawi, where the most affected are poor women and girls.

We note that under section 243 of the Penal Code Chapter 7:01 of Laws abortion is legal in Malawi, but the law is very restrictive where it allows abortion through medical operation only to save a woman’s life thereby maintaining the criminal provisions on abortion forcing women to procure abortion through unsafe means.
We note that section 243 of the Penal Code is restrictive unhelpful to women and girls rights. Health professionals, lawyers, counselling officers and advocates as this law was developed in 1860 and the same law was changed in the United Kingdom in 1967.

The proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill addresses the same issue in making clarifications. The proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill says abortion in Malawi will remain a crime only that new grounds which include to save the life of the mother, to preserve the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman cases of severe fetal malformation which will affect its viability or compatibility with life, in cases of rape, incest or defilement provided that this will be done within 16 weeks of gestation.
We note all the groups present in the Special Law Commission agreed on this. We note that different groups have signed communiques and statements supporting this process and the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

We call upon Malawi Government and Parliament to pass the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill because this is what we agreed to address issues of maternal mortality and morbidity. We look forward to the passing of the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill if possible this current sitting of parliament.
Issued today 24th Day of November, 2017

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