I am an African woman, and I’m about to say something I’ve needed to say for some time. Abortion is not the African way. It’s not part of true African culture. Yet the majority of abortions done in the USA are done in African American communities. This is deeply tragic and strikingly ironic to me as an African.
There are 54 countries in the African Union. Africa is 11.73 million square miles. “Africa is bigger than China, India, the contiguous U.S. and most of Europe – combined.” China, the USA, and Europe could fit in the map of Africa— yeah, it’s a lot bigger than people think.
One thing Africans hate is when people who are not from Africa refer to Africa as a country. Africa is a continent, not a country. As such, Africa is a diverse place with numerous distinct cultures. That said, some cultural similarities and beliefs exist and are found across most of Africa.
One of these beliefs surrounds the basic idea in the shared humanity of all human beings. There is no doubt that human beings fall squarely at the top of the hierarchy of importance, well above that of animals. In Southern Africa, there is a famous expression “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu means, “I am because we are.” It’s about ‘humanity towards others’ and the belief in a universal bond of love that connects all humans. Put simply, it means that we are all human and we all deserve to be treated with human dignity.
As it relates to abortion, there is no question in the minds of Africans that an unborn baby is 100% a human being. Because of the underlying African belief of “I am because we are” (Ubuntu), it is anathema to an African person to even suggest that an unborn baby (no matter how old) isn’t human. To kill an unborn baby in African cultures is an abomination. There’s actually no word for abortion in Tanzania, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi or Uganda. There is only a word for miscarriage. There’s also a special rite to bury a stillborn baby.
Until recently, there was little to no abortion in Africa, and it’s still not culturally accepted. Traditional Africans view this import of western-funded abortion clinics as a “gift” from those who seem to think that there are too many Africans.
Another unifying belief in Africa is that of family. Children are seen as one’s ultimate richness. Everyone who can have kids has them. It’s seen as the natural and normal part of every human life. The richer you are, the more children you have. A family with many kids is seen as blessed by God. Even a poor family sees kids as a blessing of God’s richness upon life. Poor families also see their kids as a kind of insurance policy for their old age, as many Africans believe that having many children saves one from being poor, destitute, and lonely as an old person. There is an unspoken expectation that at least 1 of your children will take care of their parents when they’re elderly. Simply put, children are part and parcel of life at every stage. Grandparents, uncles, and aunts also play a pivotal role in bringing up kids.
Another African tradition across many African countries is that of “Lobola.” Lobola is a ‘bride price,’ meaning the custom by which a bridegroom’s family makes a payment in cattle or cash to the bride’s family shortly before the marriage. The elders of both sides of the families come together for a meeting and decide on a fair price for such a beautiful and valuable bride. So having a daughter is not a curse, but a blessing.
Yes, I know, this seems totally barbaric to westerners, but the fact is that westerners did exactly this not too long ago and it’s still part of African culture. Again, the underlying foundation and value system here is that each child in the family has tremendous value to their family and to the community at large.
Ah, yes, I can already see my superior western feminists attacking lobola and attacking the idea of having many children. Don’t you just love it when westerners always believe they are superior in every single way to Africans? Don’t you just love it when westerners demand that western culture in all its forms be enforced on Africans? Well in the case of abortion (a western invention), as an African, I say a resounding, “No, thanks”.
When I arrived in the USA seven years ago, I had no idea about the extremity of abortion here. The USA is on the very short list of countries that have the most extreme abortion laws on the planet. People mistakenly think Europe has the most progressive abortion laws. No, it’s actually America. My European friends fight with me when I tell them that abortion is allowed in some places in the USA up to 9 months. They simply refuse to believe me, and tell me that “no doctor would do that.” They do.
Knowing that Africans abhor abortion, it was an even greater shock to me to discover that African Americans have more abortions here than anyone else. The well known turn of phrase goes that the most dangerous place for a black person in the USA is in the womb. Coming from Africa, where abortion is the exception and totally contrary to African culture, this has really shocked and saddened me. Especially because of what African Americans had to endure under slavery; the additional compounded toll that abortion has taken on African Americans is astounding. At least 35.6% of all abortions are performed on black babies, while black women make up only 13% of the female population. More than 19 million black babies have been aborted since 1973.
African Americans leading the way in abortion statistics is a new phenomenon in ‘African’ culture. It was not always so. Not even amongst African Americans in the USA, and it is certainly not so back in Africa.
It tears at my heart when I think of all the millions and millions of precious black babies that have been willfully murdered in the USA. It should not be so. It is not the African way. It has never been the case amongst Africans. This is a new and very disturbing thing. It is deeply ironic to me that African Americans who identify so much with all things African, many of whom declare a longing for Africa and express a desire to visit Africa one day, are promoting abortion— something that is antithetical to African culture. It is noble and beautiful to want to be part of the ancestral heritage of one’s forefathers. I deeply admire and salute that very natural longing.
But do they really know what African culture is about? Are they willing to listen to what African culture really is?
To better understand this, a wonderful African woman to follow is Obianuju Ekeocha. She says “I am an African woman. I don’t need free condoms. I don’t need free contraception. I don’t need abortion rights. What I need is Education.” She knows the way.
Westerners believe that there’s nothing they can learn from Africans. Not so. Westerners can re-learn the African way of respecting the unborn.
What I would dearly wish is that all Africans— those in Africa, but especially those in America— would go back to their ancestral belief in something so fundamental to true African culture: the cherishing of each and every African child, born or unborn.