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Macau Church struggles to protect life against secularist wave

Reports claim a high rate of abortion in the Chinese territory despite legal restrictions

A road sign for Macau is seen near the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

A road sign for Macau is seen near the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 08, 2022 03:14 AM GMT

Updated: June 08, 2022 06:44 AM GMT

Catholics in Macau should fight against a secularist wave of abortion and euthanasia that threatens human life and dignity in the former Portuguese colony, says a church official.

Father Michael Cheung, a member of the Macau diocesan commission for life, made the remarks during a swearing-in ceremony for new commission members last week.

Father Cheung, a member of the Institute of Incarnate Word (IVE) congregation, said Macau’s legal system protects human dignity but the Church is concerned about how the citizens practice things in their personal lives.

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Macau’s Portuguese-language Catholic weekly Jornal O Clarim reported the priest’s comments on June 7, along with a report on the May 20 swearing-in ceremony of new members of the diocesan life commission.

“Although the laws in Macau protect human dignity better than in other cities or regions, the same is not true of the gestures and practices of the citizens. Many things happen that we do not know about, that are not reported, or that are simply done secretly,” said the priest.

Macau residents secretly seek induced abortions at places near the border between Macau and China

The law in Macau permits abortions only in the event of a risk to life or health, fetal impairment, or rape. Unlike mainland China, Macau does not allow abortions by request or due to socio-economic situations.

However, local media reports suggest the abortion rate is high in the city because of its glittering gaming and gambling industry where many girls and women from China and other countries end up becoming victims of sex trafficking. This phenomenon leads to unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Medical journal The Lancet reported that 43 out of every 1,000 women in Macau had an abortion in 2012.

No official data on the current rate of abortion is available, but media reports say it is high as in mainland China, where abortion has been legalized since the 1950s as a part of the communist regime’s population control measures.

The South China Morning Post reported that Macau residents secretly seek induced abortions at places such as Gongbei, the district in Zhuhai near the border between Macau and China.

Doctors in Gongbei confirmed that up to 30 percent of abortions they performed were for teenagers from Macau.

Father Cheung says the commission considers the protection of life and human dignity as “very important” and it aims to educate people who will be the driving force to keep current legislation to restrict abortions in the city.

The consequent economic burden has brought to the fore the question of potential laws to allow the use of euthanasia in Macau like in countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand

The increase in its elderly population has also raised concerns in social circles in Macau.

Macau had a population of 682,100 in 2021, according to official data. There were 82,800 elderly people (aged 65 and above) in 2021, a 107 percent rise from 39,964 in 2011.

This has led to a rise in the elderly dependency rate from 8.9 percent in 2011 to 16.6 percent in 2021. The consequent economic burden has brought to the fore the question of potential laws to allow the use of euthanasia in Macau like in countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand that allow assisted suicides in “exceptional cases.”  

Despite the discussion, Macau's government has reportedly confirmed it has no intention to legalize euthanasia.

Amid such circumstances, the Church must continue to push for restricting abortion and banning euthanasia in Macau, Father Cheung said.

The priest noted that the “secularist wave” that seeks to counter the Church’s teachings on issues like abortion, euthanasia and gender is not as “aggressive” and does not strongly influence Macau’s political agenda as in other parts of the world.

The current law in Macau is a “grace from God,” the priest said, but local Catholics should not "let their guard down" and stand firm for the cause of human lives and dignity.

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