By Patrick B. Craine

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, March 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The director and another employee of a South African partner of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P) have both freely admitted in a telephone interview and an e-mail sent to LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that their organization actively advocates in favor of “abortion rights,” including sitting on the steering committee of the Reproductive Rights Alliance, which pushes for expanded access to legal abortion in the country.

D&P is the Canadian Catholic bishops’ official development arm, which has been fraught with controversy after it was revealed last spring that they are funding projects undertaken by dozens of groups that also advocate in favor of abortion and/or contraception. To date, however, D&P’s response has been to consistently and vociferously deny the allegations about its partners’ pro-abortion activities.

But according to Leonard Gentle, the director of the Industrial Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG), a South Africa-based D&P partner, the work of his organization includes offering support to the “abortion rights” movement.

“We believe in reproductive rights, we believe in the right of women to control their own bodies and make their own decisions about abortions, as an organization,” he told LSN on Tuesday.

ILRIG’s ostensible mission is to offer intellectual support to the labor and social movements by conducting research and offering educational opportunities.

Gentle stated that ILRIG is not specifically an “advocacy organization,” saying, while speaking of the abortion “rights” movement, that “we think it's important that these values and these campaigns be taken up by organizations of the working class themselves.”

Speaking more generally about the new social movements in South Africa, Gentle said, “we see ourselves as supporting them, but giving them some of the kind of intellectual tools to help them develop these struggles, including that we think it's vital that they build traditions of women's leadership and activism within their movements.”

ILRIG’s pro-abortion position was first uncovered by pro-life blogger John Pacheco, who pointed to an article on the ILRIG website, written by the coordinator of the group’s Building Women's Activism project, Anna Davies-van Es, which includes positive references to legalized abortion.

In an email to LSN, Davies-van Es confirmed that ILRIG's Building Women's Activism project “takes on issues around patriarchy and capitalism including issues of reproductive rights.”

“ILRIG has a clear position that women have the right to make decisions over their own bodies,” she said, “and this is something that we take on in our various educational and research processes with both women activist groups as well as mixed groups.”

Another clear indication of ILRIG’s pro-abortion activities is a July 2009 press release which states that ILRIG is a member of the steering committee of a coalition called the Reproductive Rights Alliance.  The purpose of the release was to call on South Africa's Department of Health to expand access to legal medical abortion.

Davies-van Es confirmed that ILRIG does indeed belong to the Reproductive Rights Alliance, adding that the organization “sits on the regional and national committees.”  “The alliance was formed in response to an increasing demand in South Africa for overt, organised support for reproductive health care services,” she explained.  “In the past ILRIG has also supported women activists we work with to attend trainings of the RRA and to feed that information back into our work here.”

ILRIG is listed as a partner in D&P's 2006-2011 program guide, and D&P links to their website.  D&P is listed on ILRIG's website as one of 8 “supporters/partners.”

Repeated calls to D&P's executive director, Michael Casey, over several days, were not returned by press time.

In response to the ongoing investigations into D&P's funding practices, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have launched an ad hoc committee to help the organization along a process of renewal.  The bishops have agreed to continue supporting D&P this year as the committee prepares a report for this fall's plenary assembly.

Nevertheless, again this year at least three bishops have decided to limit diocesan support for D&P or have instituted restrictions on their contributions in order to ensure that they do not go to groups working against the Church.


See John Pacheco's blog entry on ILRIG here.

See a complete listing of LifeSiteNews' coverage of Development and Peace here.