Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Indian Church: Women need medical care, not "safe abortion"

Better access to health care which is affordable should be provided by the government, especially for women in the rural areas," said Holy Spirit Sister Julie George, told AsiaNews. She is the director of Pune based Streevani ("the voice of women") that stands for the liberated and empowered woman in the modern world, involved in the abortion debate in India. 

The theme has returned to world attention following the first moves of the new US President Donald Trump, who has blocked federal funding to international NGOs who practice abortions.
Illegal abortions, reports the nun, "are among the main risk factors for women, who often die young. The lack of information and the use of easy ways such as taking pills or other home remedies lead to serious complications. The government should provide better access to care, particularly for women living in rural areas. "

Sister Talisha Nadukudiyil, executive secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) Council for Women asks “when we, the Catholics, are fighting against abortion itself how can we speak anything on 'unsafe abortion'". "I would stress on what Pope Francis said in his Encyclical Laudato Si, 'If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away' ( #120)."

"How can one who ignores the silent cry of the fetus of one's own blood listen to the cry of the fellow beings? In such a situation can we expect any decrease in the crimes against the vulnerable?" she asked.

According to recent data, in India illegal abortions cause the death of 10 women a day. Every year the number of abortions is around seven million - of which about 40 thousand in the single state of Rajasthan - in large part be attributed to selective abortions [related to the sex of the child, in particular girls - ed].
CI + Development Foundation studies report that abortion causes a third of deaths among mothers. In more than 8% of the country women do not know that abortion is allowed until the 20th week of pregnancy and in the presence of particular conditions. This causes proliferation of facilities offering clandestine solutions. Furthermore, the issue is also a social problem, given that over 90% of all abortions are due to medical or socio-economic reasons.

Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a Catholic theologian and medical scientist, said, "Unsafe abortions are obviously a pressing concern in India despite our liberal laws. However the tendency to see access to safe abortion as the primary solution to the problem is myopic. While access to safe abortions and creating awareness about available facilities is a must, it is well to remember that abortions even under the best of conditions carry the risk of medical complications, and may lead to loss of productivity and psychological damage."

"I believe prevention is better than cure. We need to improve the status of the girl child to reduce abortions due to sex selections, and educate women in safe sex to prevent unintended pregnancies with their associated social stigma and financial burden that push women to abortion. For the Catholic Church it is a toss between a moral teaching that frowns on sex that is closed to procreation and the risk of an unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Most women would choose to be safe rather than sorry; after all, it is their bodies and lives on the line."

Another Catholic theologian based in Mumbai, Virginia Saldanha, former executive secretary of Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences' Women's Desk, said, "The word 'unsafe' says it all. Who goes for unsafe abortions? Those who cannot access safe abortions, i.e. the poor and vulnerable sections of people, among vulnerable sections will be young women who have been raped, or who have experimented with sex and got pregnant unwittingly. These are the persons at risk, the very persons who need protection from the government or voluntary healthcare agencies. Please note I am not supporting abortions, but young people getting pregnant do tend to go for unsafe abortions."