09/12/2014, 00.00
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Indonesian Bishops against bill legalising abortion in rape cases

by Mathias Hariyadi
With Bill 61/2014, the Health Ministry plans to legalise abortion in certain cases. After months of discussion, the Conference of Bishops speaks out. For the prelates, any act against life has no "moral legitimacy". In cases of sexual violence, they quote John Paul II.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After six months of doubts and discussions, the Indonesian Bishops' Conference (KWI) has stepped in to clarify matters on the issue of abortion, particularly in rape-induced pregnancies or when the life of the mother is at risk. In an official statement, the bishops disavow a bill by which the government plans to legalise the practice for "significant" reasons.

Addressing the country's Catholic community, in particular to doctors and health workers, the prelates reiterated the supreme value of human life, which must be defended with force against the attacks of which it is the victim.

The prelates are particularly opposed to so-called "enlightened" provisions the Health Ministry plans to introduce that blatantly violate the supreme right of being born that is inherent in each foetus.

With reference to rape, they quoted John Paul II who, during the Bosnia War, repeatedly urged women victims of rapes not to abort because "the unborn child is in no way responsible for the disgraceful acts accomplished, he or she is innocent and therefore cannot be treated as the aggressor".

In Indonesia, abortion is illegal and deemed immoral, at any stage of the pregnancy. Both doctors and patients can be prosecuted. Still, despite the law, abortions are performed in secret and for various reasons: unwanted pregnancies, extra- and pre-marital relations, rape, or physically flawed foetuses. In view of this, no real longitudinal studies have been made because in most cases abortion is performed within close-knit communities.

Clergymen, believers, theologians and ethics philosophers engaged in months of discussions and exchanges before the official statement was issued. Signed by KWI President Mgr Ignatius Suharyo and KWI Secretary General Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta, the latter is meant to send a message that is "loud and clear" against Bill 61/2014 on reproductive health.

"Every human being has the right to live," the bishops note, "by the mere fact of living," and that must be defended and protected because it is God's creation. Indeed, in their view, only God has the power and legitimacy to dispose of a person's life. By contrast, humans have no right to "end" life. As the Book of Exodus says, "You shall not kill." Defending life starts with conception, in the womb.

"The Church has always shown great respect for human life," they say, "from the very beginning, which is why life must always be defended and protected." Any deed or act that threatens, directly or indirectly, life "cannot have a moral legitimacy."

The KWI's statement also addresses the issue of physical disabilities and illnesses, which "do not lessen the dignity" of human life, which is why abortion on grounds of physical disability "violates morality and must be strongly rejected."

Last but not least come pregnancies resulting from sexual violence, which are themselves a "trauma" in the life "of the victims."

In this situation, the bishops call for "moral support" and closeness to the victims, in deeds and compassion, so that they can "rebuild a normal and happy life." Yet, such a legitimate aspiration, they warn, cannot certainly be linked to ending new life.

The embryo, the bishops note, is perhaps the weakest and most defenceless of human life, because it is not yet able to express feelings or emotions. However, God calls on the Church to defend the weak, the poor, the marginalised, i.e. the most vulnerable people.

"This is why the embryo must be defended and protected". In accordance with Canon Law, whoever is guilty of the crime of abortion is "automatically excommunicated".

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