Questions over Tutu billboard in abortion clinic

A billboard in Marie Stopes Clinic in Cape Town, in which Archbishop Desmond Tutu endorses the clinic's services

A pro-life campaigner who prays outside Mary Stopes Clinic in central Cape Town at the start of every working day says he was shocked one morning  when he spotted Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s face and personal endorsement message on a billboard in the clinic.

Peter Thorp, who has spent more than 1 200 hours praying outside the abortion clinic said he  felt like he had been hit by a train when a door at the front of the clinic opened on October 26 and he saw the billboard. He said he leaned inside and took a photograph. On the next day his wife, Terry, sent an email to Tutu asking him to clarify his endorsement of the clinic and why he allowed Mary Stopes to “use your standing with God” to justify the “marketing of death”.

Internal campaign
Marie Stopes head of communications and marketing Leanne Visser said she was aware of Thorp’s concern but could not understand it as Tutu had publicly stated that his position on abortion was pro-choice.  She said the billboard had been used in a once-off internal campaign  at the clinic’s 5 year strategic planning meeting. The poster had been displayed in a reception foyer in a staff-only area which could  only be entered by punching a security keypad.

 Asked whether Tutu had been paid for the Marie Stopes endorsement, Visser  said:  “He does accept donations.” But she said that due to marketing changes in their organisation she did not have records, so referred me to Archbishop Desmond Tutu Foundation spokesman Roger Friedman. Gateway News called Friedman’s office and left a request for a call back. Tutu, 80,  is reportedly recovering well at home after minor surgery on Friday. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his struggle to bring peace, justice and equality to South Africa, and is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and a popular and respected international figure. Prior to his operation he was scheduled to be honoured with a continental award from the University of Cape Town on Monday (December 12). Tutu is also the author of a recently released global, children’s storybook bible, which according to him celebrates children all over the world.

The billboard that offended Thorp carries a photo of Tutu under the headline “Choice, Not Chance” which is Marie Stopes’ marketing slogan. The message on the billboard reads:  “Marie Stopes South Africa is doing invaluable work. Through their programmes they are raising awareness and understanding of sexual and reproductive health. They are empowering people and by providing information and access to sustainable high quality services that are giving people the opportunity to make informed decisions about their future and a choice. –Signed Archbishop Desmond Tutu”

Thorp said that during his morning prayer vigil on October 28 the door at the front of the clinic opened once again and he took another picture of the billboard, showing more of the foyer.

The Tutu billboard in a staff-only foyer in the Marie Stopes Clinic in Cape Town

After receiving no reply to her first email, Terry Thorp sent a second email to Tutu, and a copy to the office of the Archbishop of Cape Town. In the second letter she quoted a statement by former Pope John Paul 11 in which he said abortion was a moral evil that violated God’s command “Do not kill”. She said the Archbishop’s office acknowledged receipt of the email and said they would investigate. There was no response from Tutu.

In her first letter to Tutu, Terry Thorp said her husband had been praying outside Marie Stope Clinic in Bree Street, Cape Town at the start of every working day since June 2010 when God led him to take this action after the clinic  “manipulatively” obtained an official order preventing a pro-life  prayer group from praying outside the clinic for 20 to 25 minutes on the last Saturday of the month for 11 months of the year. The group of 30 people now held their monthly prayer vigil at Van Riebeeck Square, some distance from the clinic.

Abortion on demand
Thorp says he will continue to pray for Tutu and for former President Nelson Mandela who signed the Termination of Pregnancy Act into law in 1997. The legislation, which was introduced despite overwhelming public disapproval, permits abortion on demand for any woman (including teenagers without their parents’ consent) up to the 12th week of pregnancy and from the 13th to 20th week if a doctor believes  it necessary to ensure the health of the woman, or if  “the continued pregnancy would significantly affect the social or economic circumstances of the woman”.

The ANC government motivated the legalising of abortion on demand as an antidote to dangerous backyard abortions. But Christian critics, who argue that life begins at conception, view abortion as tantamount to murder and cite much evidence that women who undergo abortions experience far-reaching physical and  emotional effects.

Meanwhile in a press statement released this week Africa Christian Action (ACA) calls on churches to allow time on  Sunday, January 29 (Sanctity Life Sunday) to “observe a solemn and serious time of repentance and prayer for the national sin of abortion” ahead of the 15th anniversary (on February 1) of the legalisation of abortion on demand in South Africa.

 Since February 1, 1997 more than one million babies will have been legally killed in South Africa by abortion, says ACA.

To assist pastors in informing and inspiring their congregations to prayer and action, ACA is offering a Pro-life Pack that includes pro-life sermons, prayers of repentance, and Bible Studies on CDs that are available at R35 each. ACA also has pro-life books, especially Make a Difference: A Christian Action Handbook for Southern Africa, DVDs, bumper stickers, T-shirts, Precious Feet lapel pins and crisis pregnancy outreach posters available.

Many of these materials, including pro-life leaflets, can be downloaded from the Christian Action website.


  1. Annie Roodt:
    “I am afraid I think he is lost. HE is too busy trying to be everyone’s “friend” he misses the whole point and is really only a politician with a collar… his lips are moving…. check out what he says.
    The Bible calls us to be good bereans and check everything people tell us… pastor or popstar ….
    I have long since stopped even checking out what Mr Tutu says – he needs prayer to find the narrow path and decide which one HIS life should be a reflection of…..
    The sad thing is so many people will be lemmings and go over the cliff with him. As for this latest “lapse” …. Tutu lending his name to it is indeed shameful…. shame on you Mr Tutu… which god are you a “man of” ??

  2. For a man of God this is utterly shameful. It is a brick in the wall of unbelief that surrounds every thinking Christian today. Comments like this, and endorements from personages as well-respected as Bishop Desmond Tutu, do nothing but take us further and further away from Our Precious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Do you REALLY believe, Bishop, that God sends children to us only to have us send them back to Him? Every child is a precious gift from God. The bible in psalm 127:3 says, “Little children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his reward”. Only mothers can experience a miracle. Becoming a mother is a great opportunity given by God to become his procreator to carry out His Divine plans. Psalm 139:13-14
    reads “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Some people Sir and very hard to love – and you are one of them. I urge you to find the God who made YOU in your mother’s womb and get yourself right with Him and publically recant your statements regarding abortion and homosexuality. Please – do it for the kingdom that you say you believe in.

  3. While it is true that the ANC promulgated this bill the DA ministers voted for it as well.

  4. Abortion is an evil. Life was given by God, and man does not have the choice to terminate a pregnancy. If people don’t want their unborn babies, at least give them up for adoption. This at least gives them a chance to live and fulfill destiny. The great heroes and heroines of our world would not have been had their parents killed them in the womb. As a South African living abroad, i find it disturbing when certain religious entities endorse abortion.

  5. Henk Swanevelder

    Although given the opportunity, and for whatever reason not using it, the dear Most Reverend Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, has not commented, and will I therefore reserve my comment on his viewpoint! (Heavy titles to be carried, and therefore also a heavy responsbility! I got all these titles and names from Wikipedia!!).
    Back to the point. Personally, as a Christian, there’s no way under no circumstance that I can justify, support or promote abortion under any circumstances – even pregnancy due to rape!! I just feel that since the man hasn’t given his side of the story, we as fellow Christians can’t give our opinion on what we think, or assume, his opinion is!!
    So, in the light of what I just said, my personal view of the matter: A murderer, based on his so-called ”Constitutional Rights”, has a right to life, despite someone else’s right he denied. Meantime, an unborn life, who did not partake in any decission when a decission of sexual intercourse (with or without consent from both parties) was made resulting in conception, has no right when decide that he / she has to be aborted! Doesn’t matter from what angle you look at it, that unborn child is not there as a result of anything he / she did!! So what do I try to say? We are part of a (sick) society where it is ok to kill innocent unborn babies, in many cases as a result of irresponsible sexual conduct, whilst murders suddenly has a right to life!! I think this is sick!! And by saying this, I don’t imply we must re-introduce the death penalty – I don’t believe in that either! I just think it is sick, and therefore anyone supporting the idea of abortion, is sick as well!! God is the origin of Life, do we have the authority to decide if we can terminate it?

  6. As a Christian, I am unreservedly Pro-Life, but I agree with a previous comment, that since I have not heard Bishop Tutu’s side of the story, I would not wish to express a view other than to say that Bishop Tutu has probably done more to advance the Kingdom of God in South Africa than many other Christians are ever likely to do in their lifetimes.I wonder how many of us vote for either the ANC or the DA and thus effectively endorse their policies, including that of Pro-Choice. Methinks we should remove the plank from our own eye……

  7. Andre I am glad you ran this story and I am equally glad that fellow believers are debating these issues. I will not hold my breath that our beloved Bishop will respond to this. He has more “pressing” issues on his plate. If he is not standing for the Palestine cause, he would be trying to invite the Dalai Lama to our shores, or speaking on climate change or fighting for the rights of homosexuals. I think he selects his causes very well. In fact he has a staff contigent that selects high profile issues for him to engage in. Of cause very few of these issues directly advance the kingdom but definately have a huge political mileage. Nothwistanding, the man has done a lot for our nation but I think he has been faltering as he ages. It is a pity because the Bible says if a righteous man does evil at the end, he will remembered for that evil and not for the good he did in the beginning (Ezek 18:24). It is the end of a thing that matters and not its beginning.

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