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Bishops say no to abortion law change

Church united at plan to amend abortion law

Church run awareness program on illegal abortion for rural women Church run awareness program on illegal abortion for rural women
  • ucanews.com reporters, Jaffna
  • Sri Lanka
  • February 1, 2012
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The Sri Lankan Church has voiced strong, unanimous opposition to a suggestion that the government may relax its rules on abortion.

Tissa Karaliyadda, minister of child development and women's affairs, made a special statement to parliament in January, in which he asked for a change in the rules to be considered.

Abortion is illegal except in cases where pregnancy or delivery threatens the mother's life. Although he emphasized in a separate interview that he does not favor across-the-board legalization, the minister has suggested that the dispensations could be widened, to include incestuous conceptions and fetal abnormalities.

Discussions between relevant government departments are now taking place, but Sri Lanka's Catholic Bishops’ Conference has demanded an immediate end to the debate.

“We earnestly request the government not to proceed with this intended legislation since killing in every form is an abominable crime,” said a statement from Oblate Bishop Norbert M. Andradi, its secretary general.

The statement added that “we wish to state categorically that Bishops’ Conference is opposed to any attempt at legalizing abortion, since abortion amounts to murder. It is our greatest obligation to do all we can to protect life from its natural beginning to its natural end.”

Father Tony Martyn, assistant secretary to the Bishops’ Conference, endorsed the statement and called for Catholics to rally behind it. “We should all be together to raise our voice on behalf of the unborn child,” he said.

He also pointed out that “this law would impact on the teachings of Buddhism as well as the culture and traditions of the country.”

Father Anthony Roshan, editor of the Church-run Pathukawalan newspaper in Jaffna diocese, voiced the concern that relaxing the rules could increases the rate of teenage pregnancies. “Teenage pregnancy, abortion and child abuse have continuously increased in Jaffna in the recent past," he said. “We can see how vulnerable the situation is through the statistics.”

According to the Regional Health Service in Jaffna, 90 percent of the teenage pregnancies recorded last year were among school-age children.

Nationally the Community Health Service estimates that there are nearly 375,000 abortions every year, with only around 75,000 of them officially sanctioned.

NGO worker Surath Ranjan argues that there are numerous valid reasons why women seek abortions.

“There are illegal abortion clinics in the country and it is reported that during these illegal operations, women have died,” Ranjan said. “These rules may help and protect unwed mothers and those who have conceived through prostitution or incestuous sexual relationships,” he added. “Some families suffer due to abnormal child births. It creates many social and economic problems.”

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