Messages in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside Parliement in Cape Town on  Monday (Dec. 9).

Messages in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside Parliament in Cape Town on Monday (Dec. 9) Photo courtesy GovernmentZA via Flickr

This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) As world leaders and ordinary citizens gathered in a South African sports stadium on Tuesday (Dec. 10) to remember Nelson Mandela, abortion foes pushed a message that went against the global outpouring of praise: The anti-apartheid leader, they argued, backed a sweeping abortion rights law that negates any good he achieved.

“I cannot get past this and cannot view Mandela as any other than a leader who engaged in mass genocide of his own innocent people,” Jill Stanek, a prominent abortion opponent, wrote on her blog at

“Nelson Mandela was no saint,” wrote Paul Tuns, editor of The Interim, an anti-abortion paper in Canada. “My concern is with pro-lifers and Christians joining in the praise,” he added.

Abortion opponents began blogging and tweeting their objections, often in blistering tones, almost as soon as Mandela died on Dec. 5. Their message was analogous to objections many conservatives raised over Mandela’s past affiliation with the Communist Party and his role in what they said was a “terrorist” movement to end whites-only rule of South Africa.

But the anti-abortion objections grew when Catholic leaders joined in the chorus of praise for Mandela. Pope Francis lauded Mandela for “promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and for forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth.” He prayed Mandela’s example “will inspire generations of South Africans.”

Francis also sent a high-ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, as his personal representative to the memorial.

In the U.S., New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan hailed Mandela as “a hero” and said “he truly made the world a better place.”

(1990) Nelson and Winnie Mandela greet children on the tarmac at Harare Airport in Zimbabwe, soon after the ANC's leader was released after 27 years imprisonment. RNS photo by Trevor Grundy

(1990) Nelson and Winnie Mandela greet children on the tarmac at Harare Airport in Zimbabwe, soon after the ANC’s leader was released after 27 years’ imprisonment. RNS photo by Trevor Grundy

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Statements like those added to the irritation of some abortion foes.

“It is absolutely vital that Catholic leaders do not allow themselves to become … swept away by personality cults,” John Smeaton, head of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, wrote. “Catholic leaders have a duty to stand up to public figures with anti-life and anti-family records, however praiseworthy their record may be on other issues.”

At least one U.S. prelate, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island, did not join in the chorus of praise and instead called Mandela’s abortion record “shameful.”

“While we pray for the peaceful repose of President Mandela’s immortal soul and the forgiveness of his sins, we can only regret that his noble defense of human dignity did not include the youngest members of our human family, unborn children,” Tobin said in a statement after Mandela’s death.

In 1994, Mandela was elected the first president of a post-apartheid South Africa, and in 1996 he backed the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. The law reversed what had been a very restrictive abortion policy under the previous government. The Guttmacher Institute called the act “one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world.”



      • Paul Wojtalewicz

        If you mean standing for justice on all issues, then yes, Nelson Mandela was a single-issue person. On the other hand, if the ultimate goal of anti-choice is to reduce the number of abortions performed, then a pro-choice stance is the only logical option. If you have doubts about this claim just watch Hillary Clinton’s testimony before Congress.

  1. Commentary / Francis C. Richter

    On A Journey of Madness

    Making something legal through legislation or a court decision doesn’t necessarily make it right. One of the best examples of this is when it was declared legal to forcefully end a human life being created inside the womb by the Master Creator of life Himself, cell by cell, organ by organ, soon a beating heart, miracle of all miracles, tenderly and lovingly forming each precious little person He loves so much. They are His. They belong to Him. How dare we destroy them?

    “A voice was heard in Rama, weeping and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18 .What was spoken by Jeremiah the Prophet thousands of years ago could just as well have been meant for what is happening today:

    Once a woman chooses death for the child she’s carrying in her womb, the next step is to find a “doctor” who will kill it for her; comparable to hiring a fast gun in the old west to get rid of someone who was cramping their style in one way or another. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, him will God destroy; for holy is the temple of God, and this temple you are.” 1 Corinthians 16:17.

    Abortion must be an extremely lucrative specialty in order to entice “doctors” to risk their eternity killing little unborn babies, 55 million of them since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973. It is a genocide of diabolical proportions 3,500, little unborn babies being torn apart every day, limb by limb from their mother’s wombs, or burned to death with saline, or a scissors jabbed into the back of their necks just under the base of the skull and opened up so a vacuum hose can be inserted in order to suck out the child’s brains. Are we talking madness here or what?

    Almost certainly the pregnant mother has to sign a form giving the abortionist permission to kill her baby. Does anyone believe the child, about to be executed, would also sign that form if he or she was able to, knowing what was about to take place? It’s easy to be pro-choice when you’re not the one being killed.

    There can be no question that a child, growing in its mother’s womb is alive, or it would not continue to grow and develop. Why then is it not murder to kill it? It’s illegal to force one’s way into an abortion clinic and kill an abortion “doctor,” as well it should be. But should not the law protect the entrance to the womb as well as the entrance to an abortion clinic? The Supreme Court needs to explain why murder is constitutional when it occurs inside the womb, but a first degree felony when it occurs outside.

    It is a fait accompli that life begins at conception, the moment the sperm penetrates the ovum. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you,” Jeremiah 1:5. What a mockery of truth to rule that only third trimester abortions be made illegal. Conception is day one of our lives, not six months into the pregnancy. To intentionally and forcefully interrupt that life is a direct violation of God’s fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13.

    What is it that doctors recite at the beginning of the Hippocratic Oath before they enter practice – “First do no harm,” empty meaningless words for those “doctors” who choose the specialty of abortion. In Matthew 18:14 a dire warning: “Even so it is not the will of your Father in heaven that a single one of these little ones should perish.”

    Who can deny if these tiny ones could only plead with us and describe what the horrible torture of abortion feels like, and how it feels to be denied the life God has given them, the killing would almost surely stop that very day, that very moment? But they can’t talk; neither can they file charges, or circulate petitions, or march, or vote, or testify before Congress, or scream while they’re being torn from their mother’s wombs, the only support system they’ve ever known. And so the killing continues, with life, liberty and justice denied.

    Sooner or later, if this murderous path of madness continues, God is going to bring this once great and proud nation to her knees; count on it. It may already be happening.

    As a male and retired doctor I try my best to understand the terrible emotional feelings many women experience when they find out they’re carrying an unwanted pregnancy. My heart goes out to them. They need to get God involved in their lives as never before in every form of prayer. If the woman doesn’t want her baby many times her family will help raise it. If not there’s always the option of offering the baby for adoption. These are both moral and spiritual choices; but not abortion.

    Dr. Francis Richter (retired)
    3403 Cascade Drive
    Weslaco, TX 78599-251
    (956) 969-4151

    • “As a male and retired doctor I try my best to understand the terrible emotional feelings many women experience when they find out they’re carrying an unwanted pregnancy.”

      Try harder.

      There is nothing from your little spiel which shows you ever bothered to even acknowledge the pregnant woman in the situation let alone care about her feelings. The anti-abortion view is premised on treating a woman as a non-entity through shaming tactics, chauvinism or just ignoring their existence altogether.

      The only thing I get from that little cut and paste is that you feel your self-styled moral superiority gives you license to tell woman how they should make personal decisions concerning their own bodies. I get the impression you

  2. Mandela’s life was the embodiment of the human spirit. His energy will uplift every corner of the globe which battles for equal rights for its citizens. Hopefully we may do his legacy justice by starting at home and empowering our citizens once again. I was compelled to pay homage to Nelson Mandela with my art by creating a portrait of the world leader In Memoriam at Drop by and let us know how his strength has inspired you!

  3. I don’t like abortion, and I don’t think anyone who is sane does. I think it should be absolutely the last alternative used. However i am not the person who has to make the choice, which I am quite certain for most women, maybe not all, is a very difficult one.
    I find Christian biblical arguments against it disingenuous at best, hypocritical at worst. They believe what is written in their holy book is true, but fail to see the actions of their God, who not only killed thousands of adults, killed, or ordered killed babies, and pregnant mother, ergo unborn.
    They cherry pick verses to justify their biblical reasoning against abortion, rather than just state they are apposed to it based on their moral code, which once again is cherry picked (thank God ;-)) from the verses of their man made book.
    How about taking the energy used to fight against abortion and use it to advocate fro adoption, and improving the lives of those who were not aborted, but found themselves in less than ideal situations while being raised up as children, and now struggle to find success as adults?
    If you want to quote scripture, how about Mathew (not written by Mathew though) 7:1?

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