Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (Copua) has expressed its disappointed with the failure of Malawi Parliament to discuss a motion on the Abortion bill.
According to a statement issued by Copua, the delay by government to present the Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) bill to Parliament remains a major setback and raises several questions especially when 'leaving no one behind' and Gender Equality are key themes spearheading the global 2030 development agenda.
"We acknowledge the topic of abortion is difficult and controversial with diverse opinions about the extent to which safe abortion should be allowed by law. However, regarding law reforms no topic, however controversial should be too difficulty or complex for parliament debate. It is the only institution constitutionally mandated to make laws.
"Therefore it is deeply concerning, disappointing and a betrayal of truth that Parliament has abandoned it's constitutional duty by preventing the top bill motion presented, debated objectively and thereafter accepted or rejected based on factual evidence," reads part of the statement.
Mathews Ngwale chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Health was tasked with presenting the bill in parliament but withdrew the motion to pave way for further discussions.
"Last time, when I was about to present the bill, the politicians, the political parties, prevented me from doing that," Ngwale said. "Now, that got me thinking. And also, having traveled around the country, it also got me thinking. What I have seen is that this problem, we are prescribing to the people, in other words, we are telling people what they should have, people are not telling us what they want, that’s where the disconnect is.”
Ngwale said the bill might be brought back to parliament for consideration in the future.
He actually said this last time, in March when MPs blocked debate on the bill.
The bill which was first drawn up nearly five years ago, has met strong opposition from church groups in the mainly Christian country including Roman Catholic bishops, who organised street protests when it was announced in 2016.
The current 160-year-old law criminalises abortion, with the only exception being if the mother’s life is in danger. Offenders face up to 14 years in jail.
Advocates of the new law say despite the restrictive law, studies have shown many mothers still seek abortion services.
Over 140,000 girls and women illegally terminate pregnancies every year in Malawi. out of these 51,000 end up with complications because of the unsafe method used, costing the Malawi government over K300 million in post abortion care.