MPs who accused her of being “emotional” while presenting her private member’s bill on abortion to parliament’s portfolio committee on health on Tuesday, were using intimidation tactics, says ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley.
“The intimidation tactics used by members of the Health Committee, especially ANC and EFF members, aimed to distract other MPs from grasping the relevance of the CTOP Amend Bill [Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill]. Calling women in politics “emotional” is a well-known intimidation tactic experienced by women in politics globally.
In her presentation to the committee, Dudley said the CTOP Bill, which was tabled in parliament in December, aims to ensure greater protection of a woman’s right to apply her mind to relevant facts and information in order to make an informed choice.
Proposals include mandatory counseling for women seeking abortions, including showing them ultrasound images of their foetuses in utero, removing provisions that allows abortions after 20 weeks if there is a risk of injury to the foetus, and introducing the requirement that a social worker must agree with a doctor’s determination that a continued pregnancy would significantly affect her socioeconomic circumstances.
According to a report in Business Day MPs took issue with Dudley’s arguments and her tone, with the ANC’s Fish Mahlalela telling her to save the emotive language for debates in the National Assembly.
“We are not debating in the house. You must allow us to soberly debate on this matter, without being emotional about it,” he reportedly said.
According to an ACDP statement released yesterday Dudley said that in response to an ANC MP’s comment that “one miserable child” doesn’t matter, she said: “The ACDP does not agree that there is ever a miserable child, only children in miserable circumstances”.
She said: “Although MPs accused me of being emotional my observation was that the topic prompted a very emotional, angry response from some who appeared ready with their reaction even though most of what was said did not apply to the amendments. For example the EFF member went off about rape and screamed that I must not be allowed back in the committee.”
Dudley apologised to committee members for offending them with her honest responses to their questions and thanked them for their questions and responses which she appreciated, says the statement.
“Yesterday [Tuesday] was not pleasant but the subject is not pleasant =- it touches very deep painful places in people” Dudley said.
In her presentation to the committee Dudley said that in 2007 she had put forward a private members bill to amend the constitution to include the right to life of the unborn child, and in 2010 she had proposed legislation to amend the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act to insure a more fully informed choice. Both bills got no support from any parties other than the ACDP and were rejected.
She said her current bill does not seek to challenge the constitution but to improve the existing provisions in the legislation in line with the constitution.
She argued that one of the main concerns expressed in submissions opposing the bill appears to be the cost of ultrasound machines and therefore reduced access and discrimination. She calculated that it would in fact cost only R5-million a year out of a total health budget of approximately R42-billion a year to provide enough ultrasound machines.
In a January article Why should pro-life Christians support the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill Dudley wrote: “The reality is that until pro-life voters are in the majority in South Africa and they decide to vote for a party who understands their concerns the life of an unborn child will not be given reasonable protection.
“One of the many things that occurred to me through the experience of working on the first two private members bills [the 2007 and 2010 bills] was the choice I had — a choice to either draft an obviously unconstitutional bill expressing the desires of the more serious Christian community only, knowing it would not get any support and nothing would actually change — or I could carefully contemplate and research what could in fact be improved on within the ambit of the constitution and do what can be done as opposed to sabotaging any improvements just because they may not be perfection.”