From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Archbishop Tutu on Abortion Law Reform

Date 06 May 1996 06:12:20

Canon James M. Rosenthal, Director of Communications
Anglican Communion News Service
157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UT, England
Tel. 44 0171 620-1110
Fax 44 0171 620-1071

#710 ACC

Archbishop Tutu on Abortion Law Reform

(CPSA-Church of the Province of South Africa) Archbishop Desmond
Tutu has entered the increasingly heated controversy over abortion
law reform in South Africa to appeal for a more rational debate.

He said in an interview that women should be allowed to have
abortions but that their decisions should be made after counselling
and in consultation with their families and communities.

He rejected as "sloganeering" the use by rival lobbies of phrases
such as "abortion on demand" and "abortion is murder". "We are
generating far too much heat and not enough light," he said.

The Archbishop was being questioned on proposals by a parliamentary
committee that women should be able to have abortions on request for
up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy, and up to 24 weeks  under certain

Abortions are legally possible in South Africa at present, but under
conditions which pro-choice lobbyists claim make them practically
impossible in most cases.

Archbishop Tutu said he was distressed at the emotive nature of the
debate: "My hope is that we will be able to discuss this matter
relatively dispassionately.

"My own position is to underscore, first of all, reverence for life.
That is very important for the Church. Second is to be aware of the
realities of the situation, that there are very many abortions which
lead often to death because people are unable to have proper
facilities available."

He has previously voiced strong opposition to the view that abortion
is never permissable. In June he told a conference at an American
university that it was "immoral" to say that women who were pregnant
as a result of rape or incest should not be allowed abortions.

Responding to the parliamentary committee's proposals, he added: "I
agree that women must be the ones who make the decision. But you
cannot have an absolute, extreme kind of individualism. When my wife
is pregnant... [it] is something that affects all of us in the
family, in the community."

The committee suggested a woman should not have to get the consent
of her partner before an abortion. It also said while it would be
advisable for girls under 16 to tell their parents, it would not be

"I would have hoped that there would be counselling," the Archbishop
said. "The woman must not be left on her own account because it is
possible to take a decision in the heat of the moment. While it is
her body, the foetus is not like a tooth -- you can't say I will
just take it out like that.

"I am also pro-life in the sense that I have a deep reverence for
life and don't want any of us to be frivolous in dealing with this

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