Former Nobel Peace Prize winner and South African president Nelson Mandela died on Dec. 5, and was widely praised for his efforts against the apartheid system in his home country.
Pope Francis said: “Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations.”
Alveda King of Priests for Life said: “long may we remember his courage, his fortitude and his gentle smile; none of which were ever tarnished during the years of his battles, oppression, incarceration, and the restorative years following his release. 95 years of life is a fitting testimony to the strength of character of this legendary statesman.”
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said: “When it comes to human rights and human dignity, Nelson Mandela has to be put on the side of the heroes, not only of the 20th century, but of any recent century.”
Whatever Mandela’s achievements in opposing institutional racism, his record as president is at odds with praise for “promoting the human dignity” of all South Africans. In 1996 he signed a law, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill, introduced by his health minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, legalizing abortion-on-demand, replacing a law that protected unborn children with one of Africa’s most permissive abortion laws. Mandela said, “women have the right to decide what they want to do with their bodies.”
John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said, “may God rest Nelson Mandela,” but warned, “leaders have a duty to stand up to public figures with anti-life and anti-family records, however praiseworthy their record may be on other issues.” Smeaton added, “the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the family are the foundation and guarantee of all other human rights.”
Smeaton reminded readers of his blog that Mandela’s African National Congress “has a strong ideological commitment to abortion, with the ANC Women’s League (was) strongly behind the legalization of abortion on demand.”
Smeaton also noted the 1996 Constitution that Mandela brought into force was “the first in the world to forbid so-called discrimination on the grounds of ‘sexual orientation’,” and that “homosexualist activists have honoured Mandela for this provision.”
Mandela also promoted condoms at home and abroad to combat HIV/AIDS.
In 2007, Mandela founded an advisory group called “The Elders” which Jim Hughes, vice president of the International Right to Life Committee, called a “who’s who of pro-abortion, pro-population control supporters” and questioned what wisdom they would bring to discussion of international issues. “The Elders” included former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, South African Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, all of who supported abortion and population control.
King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., later clarified her position after facing criticism from some pro-life quarters. “He did some things that were not good,” she explained, “and we pray that he had an opportunity to (reconcile with) his maker before he left the planet.” She said she regretted not doing more to reach out to him to persuade Mandela to change his mind on abortion.
Natalie Sonnen, the current executive director of LifeCanada who was born in South Africa, said at the ProWomanProLife blog: “I have to recant my initial praise of him. I stood in his jail cell on Robben Island in 2005, and marveled at the resilience he must have had to withstand 27 years of imprisonment and hard labour. Since his death, however, I have begun to learn more about this man. He fought a brutal regime, but he also aligned himself with high ranking communists. His view on abortion and other social issues indicates that he had questionable values that in the end may tarnish his legacy.”