Africa, aid and abortion: What will Biden do?

Much social critique today takes place through a postcolonial lens. Our conversations, fashions and government policy are often mindful of the negative impacts that past generations had on the cultures they colonised. 

It should shock us, then, to realise that Western imperialism continues on the continents of Africa, Asia and South America today—though under a subtler banner: “reproductive healthcare”. 

Last week, film maker and social activist Obianuju Ekeocha released a report called AfricaPandemic: A Gateway To Neocolonialism to expose this injustice. 

She accused the United Nations and certain Western nations of what she calls “humanitarian blackmail” for tying Covid relief funds to abortion access in her own continent of Africa. Compared with more pressing needs like food and basic healthcare, “donors seem to be much more concerned with furthering the territories of the abortion movement,” Ekeocha observes. 

She explains that the UN’s ‘Covid Relief Funds’ come with “conditions and clauses that either directly or indirectly open the door to the international abortion organisations, as Western donors are demanding… more access to sexual and reproductive health and rights [abortion]”. 

In one of her interviews, a pro-life advocate at the UN exposed a group called MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International) for using the pandemic to classify abortion as an “essential healthcare service” and give it the status of an “international human right”. Ekeocha’s report also highlighted foreign organisations seeking to force abortion on explicitly pro-life nations like Malawi and Kenya. 

Pope Francis has previously called this subversive trend “ideological colonisation”. Brian Clowes of Human Life International has dubbed it “contraceptive imperialism”. Indeed, nothing says imperialism quite like Western governments sending our tax dollars to promote and pay for the abortion of dark-skinned babies in the developing world. 

Condemning this unconscionable practice last year, Bishop Alfred Rotich of Kenya asked, “Are we aware of the enemy that is continually interfering with our tradition and culture of protecting life?” 

Addressing the same issue, two Africa-based maternal health doctors mourned that, 

“There remains a chasm… between a woman dying in a birthing hut… and…board rooms where strategies are developed and priorities assigned… Rather than focus on the real causes and solutions to maternal mortality, (we) become entangled within a ‘reproductive rights’ agenda, which emphasises access to contraception and promotes abortion.” 

Doubtless, this will be an ethical question faced by the incoming Biden administration. Under Obama, the “Global Health Initiative” had a US$63 billion annual budget which, among other initiatives, helped promote and fund abortions abroad. Obama appointed a pro-abortion activist to lead the program, and as one of his first acts as president, he repealed the Mexico City policy which prevented US funds from being used to promote abortions abroad. 

Trump, by contrast, reinstated and strengthened the Mexico City policy, and his administration also endorsed the Siljander amendment which prevents federal funds from being used for abortion lobbying. Trump regularly voiced pro-life views at United Nations forums. In one such speech, Trump declared, 

“Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. 

“Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.  Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child—born and unborn—is a sacred gift from God.” 

Presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden has a choice before him: to choose the path of Obama or of Trump. Given his strong rhetoric around the value of Black lives, let us hope he chooses the latter.  


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