08/10/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Aborted female fetuses found in Punjab clinic

by Nirmala Carvalho

Reacting to the macabre news, the President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops' of India condemned the prevalent practice of selective abortions and launched an appeal to all the Church: a pro-life culture and respect for women are urgently needed.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Slamming the practice of selective abortions in north India, the President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops' of India (CCBI) reiterated the church's resolute commitment to foster respect of life and women. In an interview with AsiaNews, Mgr Oswald Gracias criticized the aberrant practice after news of yesterday's discovery of 15 female fetuses in a well near a private clinic in Punjab state. The police, who found them, said around 35 fetuses had been thrown in the well of Sahib Clinic in Patran over the past three months. A search of the clinic revealed surgical instruments and medicines used to carry out selective abortions, forbidden by Indian law. The police operation ended with two arrests and the filing of a case.

Mgr Gracias said: "The Church has always raised her voice against the grave evil of abortion, but here what is even more contemptible and condemnable is that females are chosen to be killed." Gracias, who is also Archbishop of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, continued to say that "sadly, in many part of India, women are considered second class citizens. But from my pastoral ministry, I know that women, irrespective of the conditions in which they live and their capacities, possess unique and extraordinary worth and strength."

His words were echoed by Mgr Angelo Gracias, chairman of the family commission of the bishops' conference: "Today's news is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg.  The diminishing male-female ratio in the country is an indication of the gravity of the problem in a number of states of the Union."

The Archbishop of Agra launched an appeal to all the Church to commit itself to "creating a culture not only of life, but also of respect for women and the vital role they play in the family, society and world."

He added: "The Church, especially in rural areas, has always focused on the education of girls of every caste and creed. We cannot allow this evil to have the last word. The Church through her witnesses and mission must strive even harder to foster and create a more just world especially for women."

According to research recently published by the British medical journal, Lancet, selective abortions and a cultural preference for male sons are the main reasons why 10 million Indian girls over the past 20 years never saw the light of day.

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