Pro-lifers will fight `to the death'
The anti-abortion campaign will not die down after the passage of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill, pro-life groups vow. Rehana Rossouw reports
AMERICAN-STYLE demonstrations outside hospitals and clinics where abortions are performed will be the norm in South Africa, the country’s biggest pro-life grouping warned this week.
Glynnis Newbury, of Pro-Life, said the organisation would “do everything in its power” to stop the “killing of babies”. This would include protests targeting women on their way to hospitals and clinics to have an abortion.
Newbury said pro-lifers would not commit violence as they were committed to “stopping the violence of abortion”.
However, she had scant sympathy for medical staff who were victims of violence in pro-life protests.
“In America, about five or six doctors who are abortion providers have been killed or injured since 1972. At the same time, they’ve been killing an average of two million babies a year. And people want to talk about the violent pro-lifers? People who have killed abortion providers overseas are not members of pro-life groups, but pro-choice people usually insinuate that they are. We totally deny that we are planning violent action.”
Ministry of Health spokesman Vincent Hlongwane said if the law allowed access to hospitals and clinics and the access was denied to anyone the law would have to take its course.
“The police would have to do what they are trained to do if a small group of people decides to block our health facilities,” Hlongwane said. The chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, Dr Abe Nkomo, has voiced fears that right-wing church groups in South Africa were being bankrolled by American extremist anti-abortion groups which have been linked to violence in their own country.
In the run-up to his committee’s hearing on the pregnancy bill two weeks ago, anti- abortion groups sent its members horrific pictures of foetuses. MPs were also sent letters warning that “there will never be peace in South Africa until there is peace in the womb”.
Many of the leading lights in the pro-life movement had been at the forefront of the Christians for the Truth campaign in the late 1980s which had campaigned against liberation theology in South Africa. These groups were linked to right-wing American religious groups like the Moral Majority and Family Life Coalition.
Zimbabwean author Paul Giffard’s book in the 1980s, New Crusaders: Christians and the New Right in Southern Africa, traced these links and named former Rhodesian right-winger, the Reverend Peter Hammond, as a pro-Unita, pro- Renamo cleric who had denounced liberation theologists as communists. Hammond was jailed in Mozambique after being caught entering the country illegally, which he had done on many occasions during his relationship with Renamo.
Hammond now lives in Cape Town and heads United Christian Action, a pro-life group which is also intent on protesting outside clinics and hospitals where abortions are performed.
Newbury said Pro-Life was the largest South African anti-abortion lobby group and had never been offered funding from American organisations. “We would love to know where those dollars have gone. We’d have no problem accepting it, after all the South African government gets money from America. Abortionists earn good salaries while pro- life groupings are mostly staffed by volunteers.”
Newbury said she had little doubt that private clinics would be established to provide abortions in South Africa as the state health system was already over-extended and some women would not want to queue for hours or accept inferior treatment.
“We are going to be outside the abortoriums and when women see that there are people outside who are willing to give up their time to support them and offer alternatives, we will change their minds.”
Pro-Life would continue its anti-abortion campaign by extending its services to women seeking alternatives to abortion. They could be offered funding, housing and support if they required it.
The organisation is also considering a campaign to withhold taxes and to lobby parliamentarians to use taxes to assist women who wanted to give birth to live babies and put them up for adoption. They will also assist medical personnel who object to participating in abortions.
“At the outset, we are going to fight to repeal this law with all legal means at our disposal, including the Constitutional Court,” said Newbury.
United Christian Action spokesman Miriam Payne said although her organisation did not receive US funding, it gained information from there.
“I don’t know any pro-life group which is well-funded in South Africa and anyone who suggests we have links with extremists in America is slanderous,” she said. “I certainly don’t think standing outside an abortion clinic with a placard saying `abortion kills babies’ or a model of a 12- week-old foetus is violent. If we want to intervene to stop an abortion, one place we can reach women planning to do so is outside clinics and hospitals.”