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Opinion - Abortion: The politics of morality

2020-09-18  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Abortion: The politics of morality

With the demise of apartheid, the Namibian churches and society are realising that there other issues confronting their communities. These other issues have, however, been neglected. 
However, now that the abortion debate process is underway, churches and society are being swamped by ethical issues: pornography, capital punishment, homosexuality – and of course, abortion. The list is extensive. Panic and confusion reigns because Christians feel they are being confronted by a deluge of moral decay. 

How does our society cope? In this article, dealing with the issue of abortion, I want to discuss this moral morass as the context in which we are confronted with this difficult and often a painful issue. 
The question of abortion is an important issue to allow it to become a political football or overtly political issue. 
As a point of departure, the issue of the termination of pregnancy was not a significant one for American Christians until 1973. This is the debate the famous court decision of Roe vs Wade. In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court rule that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have a termination without excessive government activities. Ironically, “ Jane Roe (real name: Norma Mc Corvey) gave birth to her third child before the case was finalized and she then gave the child up for adoption. Henry Wade the defendant, was the local district attorney representing the state of Texas. 

In 1992, a follow-up SCOTUS ruling in Planned Parenthood vs Casey further relaxed some of the provisions of the rule Roe vs Wade ruling. This made termination in the USA common, but it always became a political football with right-wing Christian leaders whipping up support against terminations as a political, voting issue. Today, the US will not currently fund any clinic or health care program in Africa where terminations are performed, which means that US foreign policy is being influenced by the religious fundamentalists and directly impacting upon the funding of women’s health care in Africa and other places where it is critically needed, even though abortion is legal in the USA.
This discussion would be incomplete without reference to the Right-wing religion/Agenda’s influence on  the subject matter. Right-wing Americans have the mic on the issue of termination, however it is widely accepted that the abortion dispute began as a manufactured issue and was chosen as an emotionally compelling issue to sway voters towards the Republican Party.

It was a way, first for the fundamentalist factions to gain control of the Evangelical Movement beginning in the late 70s, and second as a means to rally supporters and to gain political power and influence. Prior to 1978, US Evangelicals first began using the abortion issue as a rallying call for gaining political power. By the mid 80s US Evangelicals Party had made abortion the primary issue which propels the Evangelical Movement, not because they are necessarily “pro-life”. They use abortion because termination can be so easily be manipulated into a “moral”, black and white, right and wrong, emotional issue, to gain voters. However, Evangelicals didn’t historically hold this position (Cf.https.// evangelicals-open-differing-views-abortion).

Unfortunately, the situation is supporting the anti-abortion movement is to lend support to an American Right-Wing agenda. The two issues are not conflated into a (divisive) political issue. Christians did not care so much about abortion until it was used to rally people to the Religious Right once segregation and racism stopped being ‘PC’.

We should therefore be aware that our own beliefs and priorities developed in a particular culture, it is not an objective or historical Christian “value” to be anti-abortion. In contrast to US society, in South Africa in the early 1990’s, the transition to democracy created space for women to make successful claims for equality and reproductive choices under the new constitution and in the law. South Africa was not only in recognising reproductive rights but as a wave of democratization sweeping across Africa and South America. Countries such as Colombia and Uruguay also provided a conceptual framework for differing levels of abortion law reform in parliaments, courts and practice. 

South-Africa stands out for the sustentative protections given to reproductive rights in its 1996 Constitution, and its Choice of Termination Pregnancy Act, 92 of 1995 (CTOPA). By this law the legal framework for abortion from limited access so defined by race and class and policed by criminal law, became a human right-based framework that effectively enables abortion on request up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.   
In conclusion, it is very clear that termination of pregnancy is a sensitive and painful matter and is not to be taken lightly. I believe that it is in this context which the debate in the National Assembly must be centred around. The issue of abortion is too important to be obfuscated by under-handed politicking. We need to be aware of it if we are to make informed decisions on the matter. I leave you with the following quote from Dr. Rev. De Gruchy, “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct”, as food for thought on the subject matter.  

2020-09-18  Staff Reporter

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