Abortion in South Africa: Has the Church Grown Silent?



On 1st February 1997 abortion on demand was legalised in South Africa. The "Termination of Pregnancy" Act was probably the most controversial and unpopular piece of legislation to be enacted in South Africa since apartheid was introduced in 1948.


At the time, the Ministry of Health reported receiving hundreds of thousands of submissions concerning the proposed legalisation of "abortion on demand". Over 98% of these submissions opposed the legalisation of abortion. Tens of thousands marched to Parliament to, amongst other concerns, oppose abortion. Scores of delegations, and thousands of submissions to the Constitutional Assembly also implored the authorities not to legalise the killing of pre-born babies. Many surveys and opinion polls confirmed that the vast majority of South Africans were against abortion.


History of the Pro-Life Movement in South Africa
South Africa seems to be the first country where a vigorous pro-life movement was already established before the legalisation of abortion. The organization Pro-Life was launched in 1977 in response to the legalisation of abortion in the so-called hard cases of "rape, incest, mother’s life in danger, deformities, and the mother's mental health." The Protestant pro-life movement in South Africa was launched in earnest in 1991 by Africa Christian Action and Christians for Truth. Africa Christian Action published the first pro-life leaflets and the first pro-life Handbook for South Africa - Fight for Life, and organised the first pro-life demonstrations and Life Chains.

Why Has the Church Grown Silent?
How is it that, despite such initial opposition to the legalisation of abortion, we still have abortion eighteen years on? Why has the Church grown silent? Have we accepted the status quo and given up, or have we become too afraid to speak out?

Cowardice is Destructive

Compromise and cowardice hurts everyone concerned. Cowardice is destructive and short-sighted. In Revelation 21:8, cowards are at the top of the list of those who will be condemned by God for all eternity – thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Christian Courage

The Word of God commands us not to be afraid of any man (Deuteronomy 1:17). We are warned that the fear of man will prove to be a snare (Proverbs 29:25). The Scriptures tell us of those who would not say anything about Jesus publically for fear of the people (John 7:13).

“Even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42 – 43

Even the Apostle Peter, who was normally so bold and brave, gave in to compromise and cowardice when “he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel…” then the Apostle Paul rebuked them openly (Galatians 2:12 – 14).

Stand Up for Jesus!

Fear of disapproval, fear of being embarrassed, fear of being ridiculed, fear of unpopularity, fear of being misunderstood and being lied about, fear of failure, of suffering, pain and death, fear of loss and sacrifice can all too easily lead us to stay seated when we should stand up, to stand still when we should step out, to remain silent when we should speak up, to remain passive and inactive when we should fight for what is right.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the determination to do our duty in spite of our fear. Some rational, God given sense of caution can protect us and our loved ones and prolong life. But if fear paralyses us into inactivity, neutrality, compromise, cowardice, defeat and disobedience, then it is evil.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

The prevailing Arminian, Antinomian, Egalitarian, sinner-friendly, self-centred, superficial, sensational, materialistic, cheap grace and easy believism that produces wets, wimps and weeds is gutless, spineless and yellowbellied. We are not called to be popular, but faithful. The Great Commission is not about how to win friends and influence people, but how to make disciples of all nations, teaching obedience to all that the Lord has commanded. Like Shedrak, Meshak and Abednigo we need to stand firm in the Faith, no matter what the cost. We are called to submit to God, to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

We are called to overcome the world: “Because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Poland – Abortion Legislation Reversed

I do believe there is hope. If we repent of our silence and begin to speak out, God will have mercy on South Africa. There are several countries where abortion has become illegal again. In Poland, under communist rule there were consistently over 100, 000 abortions registered each year. In 1990, with both the church and doctors discouraging abortion, the numbers fell to 59, 400. Then in 1993, abortion was banned except for danger to the life of the mother, fetal handicap or rape.

“If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Love in Action

The Bible calls us to be compassionate towards those who are in a crisis pregnancy situations but it also calls us to courageously speak out against the injustice and national sin of abortion by “Speak[ing] up for those who cannot speak for themselves” Proverbs 31:8.

Prayer and Action
On Monday, 2 February, Africa Christian Action will be holding a Prayer Vigil outside the gates of Parliament (at the corner of Roeland and Plein Streets) from 13:00pm to 1:30pm. A short Memorial Service and wreath laying ceremony will be held in memory of the babies killed by abortion in South Africa since 1997. This will be preceded by a March for Life – in the form of a Funeral Procession to Parliament. The procession will gather at the Keizersgracht parking lot below Cape Peninsula University of Technology (and near to the wall painting of an African woman) and march down Darling Street, left into Buitenkant Street, then into Plein Street. Meet in Keizersgracht Street by 12:30pm. Please dress in black.

National Day of Repentance flyers are available for Cape Town congregations.

Resources for Life
Contact us if you want us to screen a pro-life film (such as Babies are Murdered Here, The Abortion Matrix, The Silent Scream or, The Hard Truth) at your church or youth group (Cape Town only).

Pro-life packs for pastors: Sanctity Life Sunday Packs available include:

  • pro-life sermons and articles
  • Sanctity Life Sunday Order of Service 
  • It’s My Body, Abortion - The Facts and Milestones of Early Life leaflets
  • prayers of repentance,
  • the Bible Study: Scripture and the Sanctity of Life
  • and an audio lecture, The Fight For Life, or Abortion is Murder Sermon on CD.

These packages are R35 each.

Join the National Day of Repentance Event on Facebook.

Download these short pro-life videos for pro-life presentations, or share on your social media.

Pro-life sermons, prayers, Powerpoints, articles, books, DVDs, leaflets and posters are available to help you mobilise your congregation in the Fight for Life.

Dr Peter Hammond

Africa Christian Action
PO Box 23632
7735Cape Town
South Africa
Tel: 021-689 4481 
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.christianaction.org.za/
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Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa [email protected] - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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