There is a sweeping undercurrent in Western thought that associates progress with individual autonomy, and it is this school of thought that sees access to abortion and contraception as solutions to
Access to contraception and abortion are heralded as two proud traditions the West has to offer the world as central to development and emancipation. Western NGOs and corporate bodies invest heavily in advocating their strengths for ensuring the eradication of poverty and female dependency. But few Africans want them. Abortion and contraception have shown little prospect for helping the fight against AIDs and poverty, and so the whole endeavour seems like a playback of colonialism: you will succeed if you do things our way. Restrict your numbers and follow our values, we will see your lives made prosperous.
Two words capture the position of the West: morally bankrupt.
There is something here in Africa that trumps the incessant individualism found in Western Europe and
In the West it is frowned upon, for example, to suggest that the proliferation of abortion in the
On the question of poverty there is a strong case for arguing that too much population growth is unhealthy. But it is important for policy-makers to understand that a call for responsible family life must still recognise such a thing as family life to exist.
The question of abortion, for example, is actually a question of what children are and what motherhood is: are they gifts or burdens? If motherhood and children are burdens, the policies of the West will work. Widespread provision of abortion and contraception will render women autonomous and fatherhood irrelevant, and a reduction in births will result. But if motherhood and children are gifts, the policies of the West will meet difficulty. Rhetoric for the sexual revolution will clash with communities who feel their values to be under threat. Communities will turn defensive and reject Western policy as interventionist. Western commentators will turn to consider the essential backwardness of Africans. Sound familiar?
If the Western traditions of contraception and abortion are to have any head-way here, they must break up family, community and friendship first.