Thursday, December 21, 2017

Abortion and the law in Sri Lanka

Abortion is legal in Britain, but only when carried out under conditions of strict medical control. If not carried out under medical supervision it is still a criminal offence in the UK under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

As this article explains:

"As things stand, a terrified teenager, who takes abortion drugs that she has bought over the internet rather than tell anyone that she is pregnant, is committing a crime that is punishable by life imprisonment."
This clearly inhuman. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has voted strongly in favour of supporting the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK.  

Sri Lanka has similar, archaic laws on abortion that should be revised.The Government has proposed some minor amendments that have been vehemently opposed by the Catholic church which has lead a successful campaign to have this blocked.


A study undertaken in the late 1990s estimated that 125,000 to 175,000 induced abortions,mostly illegal are performed annually in Sri Lanka (1). A subsequent study estimated a much higher figure of 658 induced abortions per day, giving an abortion ratio of 741 per 1000 live births (2). The latest study applying Bongaarts’ models estimates an induced abortion rate of 0.035, 0.147 and 0.087 per women in years 1993, 2000 and 2007 (3). In other words 8 out of every 100 women are likely to have an abortion at some point in their lives.

Illegal abortions are dangerous. In the year 2013, the percentage contribution from abortion to maternal mortality was around 10%, making it the third most common cause of maternal death (4).

Clearly, prohibition does not prevent abortion but drives women to seek dangerous illegal abortions. There are sound moral and public health reasons for ending the legal prohibition on this matter.

Catholics make up only 6.1% of the population of Sri Lanka but the Church’s role in influencing public policy  affects everyone—Catholic and non-Catholic—by limiting the availability of reproductive health service to all citizens.

To deny access to certain medical services to over 90% of the population who are non-Catholics on the basis of the church's teaching is unfair and unjust.

Even in a predominantly Catholic country, laws governing access to abortion need not adhere to the official Catholic position. Portugal voted to allow abortion in 2007. The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom called Catholics to respect other faiths. This is significant, given that the Catholic church’s position on abortion is more conservative than other major faith groups. Catholics can and do support public policies that appreciate the Catholic tradition while honouring others’ freedom."

The Church should cease its campaign against the propsoed legislation while calling upon its flock to follow the teachings of the church. Christianity is a religion of faith, the church must trust its flock to follow its teachings not rely on secular law to enforce an article of faith.

A group of Catholics who dissent with the church's official view has organised a petition to the cardinal.

If you are Catholic of Sri Lankan origin and would like to sign and support this, please send your name to femcathnet@gmail.com along with any titles and affiliations you would like to include.

The statement explains using theology and social consciousness how supporting the current amendments to the Penal Code are not in contradiction with the faith.


References


1. De Silva IW. The Practice of Induced Abortion in Sri Lanka, Harvard School of Public Health: Takemi Program in International Health 137, 1997.

2.Rajapaksa LC. Estimates of induced abortion using RRT Technique. Colombo, 2000.

3. Abeykoon ATPL. Estimates of abortion rate in Sri Lanka using Bongaarts model of proximate determinants of fertility. Colombo: The United Nations Population Fund, 2012.

4. Family Health Bureau. Annual Report on Family Health 2013. Colombo: Family Health Bureau, 2014.
 




Sunday, December 17, 2017

SL's archaic abortion laws should change. The Church opposes this. A call to Catholics to sign a petition to the Cardinal.

Abortion is illegal in Sri Lanka in all instances except to save the life of the mother. The existing law, a legacy of colonial rule, has not been revised since 1883. The Government proposed to amend the law to permit abortion in some very limited instances: rape, incest or serious foetal impairment.

The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has lead a powerful campaign against this, rallying leaders of other religions to its cause and the Government has shelved the proposal.

A group of Catholics has organised a petition to express their opposition to the Church's official stance.

If you are Catholic and would like to sign and support this, please send your name to femcathnet@gmail.com along with any titles and affiliations you would like to include. Please feel free to share this on social media.

The full petition is reproduced below:



Statement from Catholic community in support of amending Penal Code No. 2 of 1883 and Code of Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979 for purposes of extending permitted instances of medical termination of pregnancy


We, the undersigned members of the Catholic community, support the proposed amendments that will expand abortion provisions in cases of rape, incest, and serious foetal impairment.



The amendments do not compel anyone to have an abortion nor does it permit abortion in general. Rather, it simply decriminalizes procuring an abortion in two very limited cases. Criminalization of abortion does not prevent abortion but drives women to seek dangerous illegal abortions[1].



A study undertaken in the late 1990s estimated that 125,000 to 175,000 induced abortions, mostly illegal are performed annually in Sri Lanka[2]. A subsequent study estimated a much higher figure of 658 induced abortions per day, giving an abortion ratio of 741 per 1000 live births.[3] The latest study estimates that in 2007, 8.7 abortions took place per 100 women[4]. In the year 2013, the percentage contribution from abortion to maternal mortality was around 10%, making it the third most common cause of maternal death[5]. Furthermore, the Police Department showed that in 2015, 80% of all rape victims were girls under the age of 16.[6]


In light of this information and as Catholics driven by love and empathy for those in difficult situations, we object to any barrier that would stop women from making a conscientious choice of their own free will to seek safe, legal medical care.

We also emphasize that the ‘official’ position put forward by a few clergymen of the Catholic hierarchy makes a false representation of the opinion of ordinary Catholics. We strongly object to the campaign they have led against this Bill and find its position antithetical to the call for radical justice and mercy that is found in the Gospels. Instead, we follow Catholic teaching and theology in supporting this Bill for the following reasons.

We support the social conscience of decriminalizing abortion.  As Article 6 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, Catholics “not only may but must follow the dictates of conscience rather than the teachings of the Church.” Catholics are obliged to know and thoughtfully consider Catholic teaching, but in the end, a well-formed conscience reigns[7].

We support the autonomy of women to make conscience-based decisions. We find that the most powerful backing for the autonomy of women itself comes from the many women detailed throughout Scripture, not least Mother Mary.  As O’Neill, amongst others, note, Mary’s consent to carrying, birthing and raising Jesus provides a powerful corrective to rape culture.  Mary’s consent is the most important “yes” in salvation history because with that yes Mary bore the child of and participated in bringing to fulfilment God’s plan to redeem the world.  God did not send the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus without Mary’s consent; Mary’s full verbal consent was required and obtained before Jesus was conceived.  God waited for consent; and it was not “implied” or “presumed” consent.[8] Mary’s fiat is a conscious and considered acceptance of what has been offered[9].

We maintain that life is precious. To this end, we support efforts to address the root causes of abortion-seeking, so we can create a world where every pregnancy is wanted. We support: frank and timely sex education; gender-sensitive, compassionate, non-judgmental support networks for people seeking guidance; psychosocial support in reproductive healthcare; and the Church’s support in addressing national concerns such as gender-based violence in its physical and psychological form.

We reinforce the Catholic principle of mercy. We are against the condemnation of any rape victim to being twice powerless to choose what happens to her body. We are against the psychological torture of women with non-viable pregnancies through denial of safe abortion access. We stand with Article 11 of the Sri Lankan constitution that guarantees that ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.  

With attention to this principle of mercy, we call on the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka to prayerfully engage with the realities of the ground, open up dialogues with those affected, with medical professionals, frontline workers and women’s rights activists in order to walk towards a solution that integrates the question of justice and is emblematic of the richness of Catholic Social Teaching (Laudato Si 62-63). 
Furthermore, the Catholic Church should not rely on secular law to ensure that members of its community follow its teachings. The Bill does not compel anyone to seek abortion. Members of the Catholic community can continue to act of their own free will in accordance with their faith.




Articles that further reinforce Catholic support for access to procured abortion:

- Theological argument for abortion up to 12 weeks: James Feiser, ‘Abortion’ in Moral Issues that Divide Us. 9th January 2011:
-  Sara Abdulla, ‘Can a Foetus Feel Pain?’, Times Higher Education (10 January 1997),

- GreggEasterbrook, ‘What Neither Side Wants You to Know: Abortion and Brain Waves’, New Republic (31 January 2000), 21–5.

-  Paul D. Simmons, ‘Personhood, the Bible, and the Abortion Debate’ (WashingtonDC: Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, March 2005),

-  1974 Declaration on Procured Abortion

-  Vatican officials defend the abortion procured by a 9 year old child raped by her step-father and impregnated with twins.


-  Catholic Portugal permitted abortion on demand in the first ten weeks of pregnancy after a nationwide referendum.

Pope Francis grants all priests the authority to forgiveabortions

[1] Sedgh, Gilda et al. ‘Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: global, regional, and subregional levels and trends.’ The Lancet , Volume 388 , Issue 10041 , 258 - 267

[2] De Silva IW. The Practice of Induced Abortion in Sri Lanka, Harvard School of Public Health: Takemi Program in International Health 137, 1997.

[3] Rajapaksa LC. Estimates of induced abortion using RRT Technique. Colombo, 2000.

[4] Abeykoon ATPL. Estimates of abortion rate in Sri Lanka using Bongaarts model of proximate determinants of fertility. Colombo: The United Nations Population Fund, 2012.

[5] Family Health Bureau. Annual Report on Family Health 2013. Colombo: Family Health Bureau, 2014. http://www.fpasrilanka.org/downloads/UASri.pdf




[7] McBrien, Richard, 1994, Catholicism: New Revised Version. London: HarperOne.

[8] O’Neill, Kate, 2015, “Mary as the Immaculate Conception and Rape Culture: Implied Consent and Actual Consent.” Theology and Culture 3:33

[9] Beattie, Tina, 2010, “Catholicism, Choice and Consciousness: A Feminist Theological Perspective on Abortion.” International Journal of Public Theology, Volume 4.
 



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Protest votes and unlikely candidates in office

Its been a bit of topsy-turvy year; Britain voted to leave the EU and an apparently crazy outsider, Donald Trump now occupies the White House.

Both events have been put down to the protest vote. It just struck me that there is a proper protest vote party in Britain, one that has incidentally advocated leaving the EU for decades: The Official Monster Raving Loony Party, lead by 'Screaming' Lord Sutch.

They should have picked up the protest vote but did not, which is a pity. They sound a bit saner than what we seem to have ended up with, see their manicfesto and policy proposals.