Internationally renowned pro-life activist speaks at JCU

Internationally renowned pro-life activist speaks at JCU

Declan Leary, Op/Ed Editor

“What kind of a government do they have that could do that without anybody knowing?” The question came from a young woman sitting in the second row, in response to a story about Mozambique’s 2014 legalization of abortion.

“The African kind.” The presenter’s response was met with laughter from the sizeable group that had gathered in the O’Connell Reading Room on Jan. 15 to hear her speak on “Women’s Health and the Culture of Life.” The event was sponsored by the Cleveland Catholic Medical Association Guild, which guild founder and JCU professor Andrew Trew described as an organization “centered on enhancing ethical and faithful medical care by Catholic doctors and health care professionals.” Trew said that “[Tuesday’s] event was well attended by over 100 doctors, members of the public, JCU faculty and students.”

Obianuju Ekeocha is one of the most prominent speakers to visit John Carroll in recent memory. By trade, she is a research scientist employed by a hospital in the UK. Her claim to fame, however, is as one of the world’s most influential pro-life activists, both as the founder of the nonprofit Culture of Life Africa, and as a social media figure with over 60,000 followers on Twitter alone. She is a published author and the executive producer of a new documentary, Strings Attached, about the pro-abortion agendas and demands of Western aid organizations in Africa.

Ekeocha doesn’t mince words — but she believes her opponents do. During her presentation here at JCU, she took particular aim at the UN, which she referred to as “the world headquarters of euphemism.” The most dangerous euphemism, she believes, is the one contained in the title of her talk: “women’s health.” According to Ekeocha, the UN and other Western organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation use initiatives branded as “women’s health” solely to push abortion and contraception into Africa.

Ekeocha points out that these initiatives are met with widespread resistance from the people they purport to serve. In Tuesday’s presentation, she cited Pew data from numerous African countries, each of which showed over 80 percent of citizens viewing abortion as immoral. Even with such overwhelming opposition, most of the roughly 20 percent remainders were neutral, with some countries showing abortion favorability as low as two percent. She also showed numerous photographs, which she had taken of African women in multiple countries, protesting against proposed pro-abortion legislation.

This apparent disregard for African culture and imposition of neo-Western concepts of reproductive rights constitutes what Ekeocha considers “Ideological Neo-Colonialism in the 21st Century,” the loaded subtitle of her recent book, Target Africa.

In the middle of her presentation on Tuesday, Ekeocha pulled up a picture of Melania Trump in a pith helmet, remarking that many people had been upset by the supposedly colonialist implications of the first lady’s headgear. “This is not what colonialism looks like,” Ekeocha disputed. She then called up another picture alongside the first: former President Bill Clinton appearing at the UN in 2012, alongside then-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, to announce a new agreement making Bayer contraceptives available in Africa at a sharply reduced price. “This is what colonialism looks like.”

Ekeocha contends that, if these Western organizations truly cared about women’s health in Africa, they would devote their efforts to other causes. Abortion complications, she noted on Tuesday, are responsible for less than four percent  of maternal deaths in Africa. Ekeocha believes that women’s health projects should be aimed at resolving the other 96 percent, rather than imposing abortion and contraception on reluctant African women.

James Desmarteau ’21, who attended Ekeocha’s lecture, said that her message, “perfectly aligned with our Catholic and Jesuit identity of John Carroll.” He noted, however, that such approval was not unanimous: “As shocking as it may seem… her lecture seemed poorly received by a small group of people, as evident by several people getting up and leaving during the presentation.” According to Desmarteau, one group — apparently students — who were seated directly behind him, sat through just the first few minutes of Ekeocha’s lecture. After that interval, one of them leaned into another and said, “I guess she isn’t a real feminist,” and the group quietly walked out. A second small group walked out in the middle of the lecture, but the overwhelming majority of the audience packed into the room — which had run out of seats by the time Ekeocha was slated to speak — seemed warm to Ekeocha and receptive to her message, which the COLA website says is intended “to dissuade the rich and radical reformers from opening the floodgates of death in Africa under the guise of ‘choice’ and under the empty promise of ‘progress’.”