Thirty nine years ago the landmark US Supreme Court ruling known as Roe vs Wade gave American women the right to choose to abort during the first three months of pregnancy. The ruling purportedly acknowledged women’s constitutional right to privacy.
Before that judgement many US states had their own laws restricting access to abortion but thereafter any state or federal law that conflicted with Roe vs Wade was automatically overturned. States were permitted to specify certain restrictions during the second trimester and could ban abortion outright during the final three months.
In the past 39 years 54 million babies have been legally aborted in the US, and the cultural shift that began in America in 1973 went on to influence attitudes in other western countries.
Abortion on demand
Fifteen years ago South Africa embraced the liberal western abortion culture when it passed the Choice Of Termination Of Pregnancy Act which gives women the right to abortion on demand during their first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Between 13 and 20 weeks a woman can get an abortion if her physical or mental health is at stake, if the baby will have severe abnormalities, in cases of incest or rape, or if she believes having a baby would harm her socially or economically. After 20 weeks a woman can get an abortion if her or her baby’s life are in danger or there are likely to be serious birth defects. Minor girls do not have to inform their parents about their decision to abort. Nor do women have to tell their husbands.
Since the advent of abortion-on-demand in South Africa in 1997, approximately one million babies have been legally aborted in this country.
Culture of death
The culture of abortion – or culture of death as it is called by opponents – has been controversial in America from the outset, dividing the nation into so-called pro-life and pro-choice supporters. The annual March For Life during which pro-life supporters march to the Supreme Court in Washington on or close to the Roe vs Wade anniversary has consistently been one of the largest protest meetings in the US capital, despite the fact that it is largely ignored by the secular, mainstream media. According to Wikipedia the march regularly attracts 250 000 people. On Monday (January 23) an estimated 100 000 to 500 000 marchers — including many college students and teenagers — turned out despite bitterly cold, rainy weather. But for the 5th consecutive year, the New York Times, regarded by many as one of the world’s bastions of journalistic excellence, ignored the event in its print edition. On blogger commented: “As always, I’m less troubled by media bias than I am by the media pretence of objectivity.” Another commentator suggested that the newspaper’s famous tagline “All the news that’s fit to print” should be changed to “All the news that fits we print”.
In South Africa, Christian opponents of abortion will be staging marches and street prayer vigils (see details at end of this article) at strategic locations in various cities on Wednesday (February 1) to mark “National Repentance Day” on the 15th anniversary of abortion-on-demand. The numbers of protesters will be small by US standards – probably a few hundred at most, judging by previous years. But they will be doing their best to raise awareness about what they view as South Africa’s hidden genocide. Will the mainstream media report seriously on these National Repentance Day protests? Let’s wait and see. But as Christians, it is all too easy to point fingers at the liberal media. Since the media mirrors a modern, secular culture that tolerates various questionable practices in the name of respecting individual rights and freedoms, should we be surprised if they snub what they perceive to be small gatherings of religious fanatics?
A more interesting question to ask ourselves is: Do we Christians in South Africa take the matter of abortion seriously? Perhaps we can explore this thought by asking some more questions. Would we be willing to join one of the pro-life street protests next week? If not, why not? Because we are pro-life? Because we don’t want to be seen as fanatics? Because we haven’t really given the matter much thought?
Okay, now we are starting to ask some interesting questions. Let’s keep going. How many churches do we think will heed the pro-life call to observe Sanctity Life Sunday – this Sunday – by having a solemn and serious time of repentance and prayer for the national sin of abortion? How many sermons or teachings or prayers have we heard in our churches about abortion?
What does the Bible say?
Surely, as Christians the questions we should be asking about abortion include: What does the Bible say on the matter? When does life start: at conception as pro-lifers maintain or at some other point as pro-choicers argue? If the killing of a million babies in the womb in our country is genocide, what will we do about it?
Theologians talk about systemic sin: that type of sin that so surrounds us that we don’t even notice it. It becomes normal. It is a pervading sin that allows evils such as crippling poverty, AIDS and genocide to continue unchallenged. Even our major political parties, the ANC and the DP, officially endorse a pro-choice position and presumably many Christian vote for them: it is said we are 70 to 80% Christian in SA.
At least in liberal America headed by a passionately pro-choice President Barrack Obama, hundreds of thousands of Christians (and others) engage with the issue of abortion and participate in protests. Many Christians take part in active lobbying and the pro-life movement has made significant moral and political gains in certain areas. In the current US election year abortion is one of the campaign issues. Christian Post quoted Henry J Mansell, Archbishop of Hartford, saying that “particularly with young people” the country was becoming more pro-life, mainly because “they understand sonar imaging”.
“We see with sonar imaging what is really involved with the foetus reacting to pain, audible heartbeats, all those things are showing great increases in terms of” pro-life legislation,” Mansell said.
Perhaps it is the hour for South African Christians to start engaging with the issue of abortion: to start seeking answers to some of the questions raised in this article, and to ask further questions. One place to start would be to take advantage of some of the Christian pro-life resources that are readily available from Africa Christian Action or on DVD.
Country-wide National Day of Repentance Marches or Prayer Vigils
Vosloorus: Pro-life march, Saturday, 28 January, 12.30, Meet in Roets Drive, opposite the BP garage. Contact: Lydia Meshoe: 082 962 5884.
East London: Life Chain, Sunday 29 January, 2 pm. Corner of Oxford St, opposite Downtown Christian Centre (just around the corner from Marie Stopes Abortuary) Contact Frans 082 774 6649 or Judy 043 726 9900, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cape Town: March to Parliament, 12:30 Wednesday, 1 February, Keizersgracht St, below CPUT (previously Cape Tech). 13:00: Prayer Rally and placard protest outside gates of Parliament. Contact: Africa Christian Action, 021-6894481 or email@example.com.
Durban: Life Chain, Saturday, 4 February, 3pm – 5pm, Ballito Drive, meet between the NG Kerk and Clinic, Ballito, contact Nina McNeil, Christians for Truth: 031 – 702 9503, 073 745 5740, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pietersburg (Polokwane): Life Chain, Saturday 4 February. Contact: David Frew: 072 2507 031 or email@example.com.
Bloemfontein: Saturday, 4 February, 9:30am, on sidewalk outside Mimosa Mall, start in parking lot south of Brandwag Shopping Centre. Contact Freestate Pro-life Network, Dr Faan Oosthuizen – 083 265 9395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hammanskraal (30km from Pretoria): Saturday, 3 March, near the Jubilee Mall Contact: Biblical Christian Network, Dieter Claassen: 082 495 7607, email@example.com