“I would like to speak to you today about why pro-life Christians should support the ACDP’s Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill which is presently before the National Assembly.
In 2007, on behalf of the ACDP in the National Assembly, I put forward proposals for a private member’s bill to amend the Constitution. In 2010, I proposed legislation to amend the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. The first proposal was to include the right to life of the unborn child in the Constitution and the second was to ensure a more fully informed choice is possible regarding the termination of a pregnancy.
Both bills found no support from any political parties in Parliament other than from the ACDP, and were rejected.
The reality from a political point of view 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 member’s 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 concentrate on doing what can be done.
Working from this premise I proposed Labour Law legislation which was actually passed in the National Assembly on 28 November 2017. This is the first Private Members bill and the first opposition party members bill to be passed by the National Assembly. The legislation provides for parental and adoption leave.
During 2017, on behalf of the ACDP, I introduced the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill, 2017, in Parliament. This legislation – which is not about whether or not abortion can be condoned for any reason – challenges the present situation which facilitates abortion on demand in the broadest sense.
I will be arguing that the intention of the legislators in 1996 to increase restrictions on termination of pregnancy in line with the development of the baby in the womb is clearly illustrated, yet overly broad and vague clauses, appear to have been slipped in and contradict and nullify this intention.
The amendment aims to ensure greater protection of a women’s right to apply her mind to relevant facts and information in order to make an informed choice and aims to ensure through mandatory as opposed to non-mandatory counseling that adequate budgets are made available for this purpose.
Discrimination against babies conceived by women in low income families or in challenging social and financial circumstances is addressed by adding a social worker’s experience and opinion to that of a medical practitioner in the second trimester; and the deletion of the reference to ‘a risk of injury to the fetus’ as a valid reason to terminate an otherwise viable baby after 20 weeks of gestation as it is vague and an excessive response, especially since every birth could be said to pose a risk of injury to the fetus.
Some European countries are now considering tightening their abortion laws. For example, in Norway, midwives have voiced concerns about the number of healthy babies… sufficiently viable to survive outside the womb… being aborted on ‘social grounds’ beyond the usual 12-week limit. Their intervention in this traditionally liberal country, I am told, has led to a change in the law.
Across Europe, many liberals are increasingly coming to regard late abortions where babies are often born alive and have to be left to die, as barbaric. And more women ministers in socialist countries are also rejecting the argument that limiting late abortions is anti-women.
Today we know so much more than we did in 1996 and babies are recognised as viable at 18 weeks into a pregnancy. We also know that unborn babies not only die but suffer excruciating pain during dismemberment abortion – a cruelty that rips arms and legs off a helpless child. It seems to me that in 2018 we stand a far better chance than ever before of having meaningful and respectful interactions across hard and fast positions in order to improve existing legislation without imposing on peoples freedom to choose.
The amendments in the private member’s proposal provide for a greater degree of consideration and protection for both women experiencing a crisis pregnancy and for the child they are carrying.
The hope is that a greater appreciation and respect for life will take root in our cultural perspective. There is also the possibility that some through accessing relevant information and help will not feel they have to take the life of their child.
Some Christians have expressed heartfelt concern that this approach is a compromise, which of course it is. We live in a diverse society and compromise for the sake of living in relative peace and harmony is a given, keeping in mind that when a majority of people in SA decide to stand up for ‘the right of an unborn child to life’ and vote in line with their convictions, the compromise will more meaningfully reflect this view.
Fortunately many of those who reacted negatively, reconsidered when they were asked if they were saying the life of one child was not worth saving if we cannot save the lives of all babies.
The majority of voters are presently pro-choice, even if not pro-abortion, and of those, many are vociferous defenders of super liberal abortion laws.
The ACDP hopes that this legislation will give these people an opportunity to reconsider their views on abortion. We also hope that it will result in many more women, given the opportunity to consider the truth about what is happening in their body will decide to access options or help, available to them and choose to bring their child into the world alive. In terms of research done this will not often be the case – but a percentage of women do change their minds and are grateful they did.”
SPEECH BY: CHERYLLYN DUDLEY MP
Pro-life demonstration, Parliament
1 February 2018