During the second annual Lives Worthy of Respect event at Georgetown University on Oct. 23, Obianuju Ekeocha, the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, encouraged those gathered to celebrate the births of babies and to ensure that United States government funds do not go toward promoting a culture of abortion in Africa.

Ekeocha has advised African members of parliament, African United Nations delegates and African religious leaders on promoting pro-life values in different countries, and has also co-authored pro-life declarations with various African Catholic bishops’ conferences. During her Oct. 23 talk, she explained how those pro-life values are embraced by African culture.

“The African people have a culture of life,” she said. “The recognition of human life from the womb to the tomb is a common thread that runs through many tribes and towns of Africa.”

She recalled how in the village she grew up in in Nigeria, “new life is welcomed with joy.” There is a special call reserved for the birth of a baby, and the entire village celebrates the first day of a baby’s life. People sing, dance and clap, “celebrating like it is the #RoyalBaby,” she said.

“As a society, we love and welcome babies,” said Ekeocha. “Amidst our different difficulties and afflictions…our babies are always a firm sign of hope.”

But unlike the African people, many of the western organizations that are trying to help out in Africa do not embrace life in the same way, Ekeocha said. Even though the era of colonialism is over, she said recently there has been a “return of western footprints in Africa,” in the form of powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are promoting “population programs” to give access to abortion and contraception.

“We are looking upon our child – one baby – not as an increase in population, but as a valuable member of our community of love,” she said, adding that donors spend so much money in order to “buy us streets devoid of the chatter of children.”

African people are concerned about the unmet demands of the continent, such as the need for affordable food, clean water, health care and education, she said, recalling how “some of those were my very own concerns” while she was growing up. She expressed gratitude for those people who had participated in mission trips and projects that genuinely helped fill those needs, but said, “This is not the common approach taken by the wealthiest and most prominent donors.”

According to data from 2013, she said population programs receive more donated funds than education, health care, or clean water. African countries receive about two billion donated condoms every year, which costs about $17 million, which could be going to solve these other problems, she said.

“It is easier and cheaper to buy a bag of condoms than buy a bottle of water,” Ekeocha said.

Right now, only four out of 54 African countries have legal abortion, though several are struggling to keep their pro-life laws, because the loudest voices and strongest lobbyists are western NGOs or people being funded by them, who believe abortion should be legalized, she said.

“They do not represent the voice of the people,” she added.

Ekeocha called this moment “our 1972,” and said, “the main task of the young pro-life movement is to ensure a 1973 does not creep up on us,” referring to the year that abortion was legalized in the United States by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling.

By observing the legalization of abortion in western countries, they have seen the babies who have been killed, the mothers who have been hurt, and the families that have been destroyed, she said.

“Abortion is a direct attack on human life and human dignity,” she continued. “This is why Africa rejects it.”

But because western NGOs see Africa as a “cultural vacuum to be filled with their ideas,” they plan initiatives in their own language, Ekeocha said, noting that she was not referring to English or French, but rather to phrases like “reproductive rights,” “bodily autonomy,” and “right to choose.”

“These are terms I cannot translate into my native tongue without conflicts and contradictions,” she said.

She also mentioned that there is an effort to blame some countries’ high maternal mortality rates on their choice to resist legalizing abortion, rather than tying it to address gaps in women’s health care.

“Whether you know it or not, this concerns you,” she said, encouraging anyone who is an American taxpayer to demand that the United States does not fund abortion organizations either at home or abroad.

She praised the decision by the Trump administration to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which prevents any NGOs receiving federal funding from either performing or promoting abortions in other countries. But she also noted a television advertisement for condoms by USAID that outraged many Africans because of the way it seemed to celebrate marital infidelity.

“You too should have been outraged,” she said, explaining that at the end of the ad, under the USAID logo, it said “from the American people.”

In addition to monitoring what these organizations do, Ekeocha asked everyone to continue promoting the culture of life here, and as they do so, to make room for women in crisis pregnancies, to care for post-abortive women, to mourn the babies that were lost, and to celebrate babies who are born.

“Celebrate them like you are African,” she said. “That is one marvelous type of cultural appropriation we can all agree on.”

Because of the influence that the United States has around the world, she emphasized, “If you are prolife, the ripples of your culture of life will be felt in countries near and far.”

“Laws come and go, but universal truths remain,” she said. “From Nairobi to New York…from Africa to America, human life begins at conception. Every life deserves protection. Every single life is a life worthy of respect.”