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Churches fight abortion Bill

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Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), an umbrella organisation for churches in Lesotho, is leading a campaign against the Penal Code Bill which seeks to partially legalise abortion.
The National Assembly on Friday completed debates for proper wording of the Bill as suggested by the Senate.
The Bill is expected to be enacted before parliament closes for the Christmas holiday.
Section 45 of the Bill criminalises abortion except when a woman conceived because of rape, incest or where her life or that of the baby is in danger.
“It shall be a defence to a charge under this section that the act intended to terminate pregnancy was performed by a registered medical practitioner in order to save the life of the female person,” reads part of the Bill.
It also allows abortion if the child has a serious disability. But churches in Lesotho say even these exceptional cases do not justify abortion.
Close to 90 percent of Basotho identify themselves as Christians with the majority being Catholics.
The Roman Catholic Church is hostile to abortion under any circumstances. The Anglican Church which also has a sizeable following in Lesotho is also opposed to abortion.
CCL chairperson, Reverend Khethang Posholi, told the Sunday Express yesterday that the Christian church in Lesotho is not going to allow the abortion law to take effect.
Reverend Posholi, an Anglican, said the CCL is mobilising its members to come up with a plan to fight the Bill.
“This law is ungodly because from the beginning when the Almighty God made the first human couple and blessed them with the ability to have children he never allowed them to kill anybody,” Reverend Posholi said.
“God did not give men and women any reason to kill their infants, born or not yet born.”
“I know for a fact that our Members of Parliament are members of our churches because they are Christians but it boggles the mind why they did not consult their churches when they made this law.”
The Reverend said it did not matter whether a woman conceived because she was raped or not.
What is important, he said, is to respect God by not terminating the life he gave.
Human life is sacred and ending it is disrespectful of God, he said.
“I do not mean that it is good that women are raped and get pregnant. I merely say when it has happened; a woman should not try to deal with a sinful act of rape by committing an equal sin of ending a human life.”
The Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) MP, Thabang Kholumo, who said he is a Catholic, told parliament on Friday that his church was campaigning to have its members sign a petition opposing the Bill.
Kholumo however said he agreed with the Bill but argued that where it said a woman whose baby will be born impaired may terminate pregnancy should be re-worded.
He said the word “impared” should be replaced with “handicapped”, arguing that the former word opened opportunities for women to terminate pregnancies even when it is unnecessary.
“My argument, on the basis of these guidelines is that to replace the word ‘handicapped’ with the word ‘impaired’ is to open up abortion to many different cases as the word impaired is broader or more encompassing than the word ‘handicapped’,” Kholumo said.
“A deviation from normal may mean anything to different people for example squint eyes, stammering, albino etc, and the intention of the legislation is not to allow abortion of this kind of babies,” he said.
“The purpose of this clause is to allow termination of pregnancy only where registered medical practitioners are convinced beyond doubt that the foetus is seriously handicapped that it will not make it in life and not for just any mere deviation from normal as the amendment suggests,” the MP added.
The Senate had suggested that the Bill should say a woman may end pregnancy if she finds that her baby would be impaired.
Kholumo’s arguments were backed by the Lesotho People’s Congress leader, Kelebone Maope and the Malimong constituency MP, Lebohang Moeketsi.
MP for Taung, Keketso Rantšo, was however adamant that the Bill should be left as it was because women should be given rights to terminate their pregnancies if their babies will be disabled.
“I disagree with the Honourable Members in that it is not a good thing that you let a child born knowing well that it will be disabled,” Rantšo said.
“That will be saving the child if we allow the mother to terminate the pregnancy,” she said.
Kholumo argued that disability does not mean that a person is handicapped.
“As a nation we still have to protect by law the birth of disabled persons who are not seriously handicapped, as the guidelines show that a person can be impaired and not necessarily disabled and that a person can be disabled without being handicapped,” Kholumo said.
“To abort handicapped babies is not as serious as aborting impaired babies. I therefore do not agree with the suggested Senate Amendment to this Bill.”

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