Bishops in Sri Lanka have condemned a government move to allow abortion in some circumstances.
Cabinet has approved presentation of a bill to parliament to legalize abortion when a pregnancy is due to rape or if a fetus is diagnosed with a “lethal” congenital malformation.
The Sri Lankan bishops’ conference stressed that the church believes life begins at conception.
A person could not safeguard their own rights at the expense of violating somebody else’s rights, said Bishop Valence Mendis of Chilaw, secretary general of the bishops’ conference.
Bishop Mendis, in a joint statement with Bishop J. Winston S.Fernando, president of the bishops’ conference, defended the “right to life” of an unborn child.
An estimated 600 illegal abortions take place in Sri Lanka every day, including many in factory zones where large numbers of women work.
The Sri Lankan bishops’ conference urged all Catholics to oppose both illegal and legal abortions.
Plans to allow abortions in some circumstances were abandoned amid protest demonstrations in 2002.
Caritas and other church groups organize awareness programs dealing with a range of maternal issues, including abortion.
According to media reports, 10 to 12 percent of maternal deaths are due to excessive bleeding and infections after unsafe, illegal abortions.
In Sri Lanka, abortion is currently illegal except to save the life of the mother.
Contradicting the opinion expressed by the bishops, some young people and women rights’ activists said through social media that women should be able to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape.
Nalani Hettiarachchi, a women rights activist in Colombo, noted that illegal abortions are the largest single cause of maternal deaths.
Ninety percent of abortions were carried out on married women, Hettiarachchi said.
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