Malawi has spun off into a tag-of-war over the termination of pregnancies with the church using strong words to seek to deter the piece of legislation from being passed in Parliament. Others advocating for the rights of those who wish to terminate are also arguing their case. Lawyer Bright Theu has been explaining what is contained in the bill on his Facebook wall:
The starting point is that if you do anything unlawfully to end a pregnancy (there is sensational language used for this by either camp), you commit an offence under the law - loosely put.
2. Secondly, the Bill broadly intends to allow "safe" and "legal" termination of pregnancy, and specifically to legally allow termination of pregnancy in the following circumstances:
2.1 where carrying the pregnancy to term endangers the life of the pregnant woman.
2.2 where termination is necessary to prevent injury to the "physical" or "mental" health of the pregnant woman. Poverty and its impact is not a relevant factor for this.
2.3 where the unborn baby is so severely malformed that its viability and ability to live a meaningful life will be affected.
2.4 where the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest or defilement.Two conditions must be satisfied under these bases: firstly, the rape, incest or defilement has been reported to police, and secondly the pregnancy must be less than 16 weeks. If a pregnant woman makes a false declaration of rape, incest or defilement to get an abortion, she commits an offence and can be imprisoned for 5 years.
Apart from the above reasons, the Bill expressly provides that a pregnancy shall not be terminated on mere demand or for any other reason. It is a an offence to terminate a pregnancy for any other reason.
Thirdly, the bill allows medical personnel to refuse to perform the abortion on conscience grounds, except where termination is for purposes of saving the life of the pregnant woman or it is an emergency.
If a medical practitioner refuses to perform abortion in these two exceptional situations, they commit an offence whose fine is MWK5 million and imprisonment for 5 years.