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MPs pour cold water on Abortion Bill

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Some members of Parliament (MP) from the Legal and Health committees, who on Saturday met in Mangochi to discuss the proposed Termination of Pregnancy Bill, have indicated that Malawi is currently not ready to legalise abortion.

The legislators, who were convened by the Coalition on Prevention of Unsafe Abortions (Copua), have instead urged stakeholders to clearly reflect on why more women are procuring safe and unsafe abortions before changing the law, saying the move might end up making the country have more irrelevant laws.

Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Juliana Lunguzi, who is also MP for Dedza East, said in an interview that, as a Christian, she cannot in any way support the idea of legalising abortion, saying that is against her faith.

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“As Health Committee, there are different opinions on the Bill. Others are supporting it while others are opposing it. But I, as a person, cannot support the Bill because it is against my Catholic faith. But being a representative of the people, I will wait to hear as to what will be the decision by the people in the rural areas,” she said.

In her remarks, Chairperson for Women Parliamentary Caucus, Jessie Kabwila, encouraged people advocating for the Bill to allow local people to make their own decision on the Bill because, at the moment, there is a consensus that women are dying from unsafe abortion.

Lilongwe Nsinja North MP, Peter Chalera, said looking at the country’s illiteracy levels, Malawi is not ready to legalise abortion as that would act as an open cheque for some people to abuse the facility.

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“To me, the way to go is not to make abortion legal because I think Malawi is not ready for such legislation. We need more time to lobby and sensitize the people on the law. I feel, as a country, we need to invest a lot in education to avoid cases of unwanted pregnancies,” said Chalera.

Commenting on the issue, MP for Mzimba North, Agnes Nyalonje said every abortion that takes place represents a failure of a certain system in the society.

“We need to look into our systems such as education, health, and social welfare and see if indeed they are supporting women and girls. It has been proved in other countries that sexual and broader education of girls and women are crucial in ending unwanted pregnancies,” said Nyalonje.

She further called upon proponents of the Bill to come forward and provide details on how they intend to address cases of possible abuse of the law as well as capacity building of health facilities that will be providing the services.

“We need to first look into our systems before changing the laws because at the rate we are doing our things, it is likely that we might be changing our laws now and again. Once the systems have been put in place, that is when we can change the law to cater for those cases that will not be assisted by the systems,” she said

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