Sri Lanka
2002-05-02 00:00:00

Catholic bishops of Sri Lanka have expressed their opposition to the government´s proposed legislation to legalize abortion "on a selective basis."

"The bishops´ conference in Sri Lanka wishes to express its deep concern and disapproval of such an amendment, because for us Catholics, abortion is an abominable crime," said the bishops in a statement.

Issued April 30 in Colombo from Lankaramaya, the secretariat of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference in Sri Lanka, the statement was signed by Auxiliary Bishop Marius Peiris of Colombo, secretary general of the conference.

"Recently our local mass media informed us of a proposed move by the government to amend the present penal code which prohibits abortion, in order to permit abortions on a limited, selective basis, with regard to what are called ´special cases,´" the statement said.

The media reported that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe´s United National Front government intends to review the possibility of legalizing abortions for women in special circumstances.

Officials of the Women´s Affairs Ministry have justified the move to legalize abortion on a selective basis to allow abortion for victims of rape and incest and for women with serious medical complications.

The bishops noted that the Catholic Church opposes any such move "because of our conviction that every human life, from the moment of its conception until death, demands total respect and protection." The human embryo has human dignity, which commands respect and protection, they added.

Elaborating on the Catholic Church´s teaching, the bishops said, "Abortion, which amounts to destroying such unborn human life, is a morally evil act, which is unacceptable."

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the statement said human life is sacred as it involves from its beginning "the creative action of God and it remains forever in a relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end."

"God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being," it added, again referring to the catechism.

The bishops lamented that "today, most abortions take place because of the wrong understanding that the embryo/fetus in the womb is not human until it is born or at least until it becomes a few months old."

Drawing from Pope John Paul´s 1995 encyclical, "The Gospel of Life" (Evangelium Vitae), they noted that from the time the ovum is fertilized, "a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother."

"It is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already," the bishops cited the document as saying.

The move to allow abortion on a selective basis originated in 1995 under the People´s Alliance government, now in opposition.

At that time, then justice minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris, who is now minister of Constitutional Affairs in the new ruling government, proposed amendments to the penal code to legalize abortion.

In Sri Lanka, abortion is illegal except to save the life of the mother.


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