African Christian Democratic Party president, Rev Kenneth Meshoe, at the launch of the partys election manifesto at Orlando East, Soweto. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

The ACDP’s position on abortion is based on our view that it is a symptomatic and superficial remedy to a far greater problem, says Jo-Ann Downs.

 In his column in The Star of March 3 (SEE RELATED ARTICLES ABOVE), Eusebius McKaiser criticised the African Christian Democratic Party’s (ACDP) position on abortion and accused the party of undermining women’s rights.

The scope of his argument, though, is extremely narrow, especially given that the article followed an interview that was meant to cover the ACDP’s election manifesto.

McKaiser argued that the ACDP’s anti-abortion stance perpetuates male dominance over female bodies, making reference to a historical context of male-run states whose laws regarding reproductive decisions, he asserted, deprioritise the interests of women.

McKaiser criticised the ACDP’s belief that abortion shouldn’t be considered in the case of rape, pointing out that rape victims are not always able to access medical facilities shortly after an attack. He then referred more specifically to the case of teenage girls falling pregnant after being raped by their fathers, differing with the ACDP’s belief that the law should be amended to require parental consent for teen abortions.

The law as it stands allows the abuser to cover up his crimes. Also, requiring parental consent for an abortion would allow welfare to deal with the whole family – instead of simply removing the child – and give support to women, who often keep quiet because of their financial dependency on the man.

More fundamentally, the ACDP’s position on abortion is based on our view that it is a symptomatic and superficial remedy to a far greater problem.

Rape, child abuse and other violent crimes are rampant and these, with governmental corruption, speak of a crisis of values that is set to destroy our country.

Traditional values like respect for women, service to the community, hard work, honesty in business, and caring and providing a future for our children are being tossed aside in favour of a fast lifestyle, greed, winning at any cost, taking what one wants and a lack of respect for others.

If McKaiser had in fact explored the ACDP’s election manifesto during our interview, he would have seen that the party intends to address this moral decay as well as the social ills it is causing.

The manifesto details the ACDP’s plans to reduce violent crime such as rape and murder. These include improvements to the policing system, and reviewing sentences as well as reviewing the parole and bail systems.

The ACDP agrees that access to health care and the quality of public health services are insufficient.

Our manifesto lists specific steps we would take to improve public hospitals and the performance of their staff. We also plan to implement the National Health Insurance scheme and increase the number of trained community health workers.

Notably, the ACDP’s manifesto states that we will intervene to significantly reduce maternal and child mortality.

Other plans include increasing and improving social welfare services, amending laws that undermine family values and supporting initiatives that seek to strengthen and promote strong healthy families.

Of course, all of these plans will require substantial funding. The ACDP’s manifesto includes strategies to boost employment and economic growth, as well as specific interventions to end corruption.

These policies would not only reduce poverty, but would also increase tax income and ensure that this funding is spent on the betterment of the country for its people.

The ACDP aims to reverse the trend of government corruption and lead moral regeneration by providing leaders who adhere to principles of servanthood, integrity, justice, hard work and respect for others.

We know, however, that South Africans are growing sceptical of promises made by political parties. Since the ACDP does not deal only in plans and promises, I urge the electorate to vote based on what parties have actually delivered.

For my part, I have worked consistently for 20 years to assist victims of sexual offences.

I am the chairwoman of Bobbi Bear, an NGO that has received worldwide accolades for its work on child abuse. I have personally intervened in acute cases where women and children have not received the medical attention they deserved. I have had district surgeons and the police investigated and disciplined for not assisting rape victims.

I was part of the group that convinced the government to make ARVs available to rape victims and pregnant women.

Any member of the legislature will testify how often and how consistently I raise women’s and children’s issues. My colleagues at national Parliament and in the other legislatures have also been vocal and practical on women’s issues.

The ACDP holds human life and well-being in the highest regard.

We stand for a shared future and are determined to provide reliable, trustworthy leaders who are passionate about addressing the needs and improving the lives of all South Africans, especially those belonging to vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Allow us to continue proving this to you, and don’t for one second believe we will not champion the rights of women and children, in the context of providing a safe society that cares for the well-being of all its people.


* Jo-Ann Downs is ACDP chairwoman and Member of the KwaZulu-Natal Parliamentary Legislature

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

The Star