CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Argentina moves closer to legal abortion

MEXICO CITY (CNS): “This decision hurts us as Argentines,” the Argentinian Bishops’ Conference said in a statement expressing with the June 14 approval of an initiative that moves the South American country closer to legalising abortion. 
 
“But the pain for the abandonment and the exclusion of innocents must be transformed into strength and hope, to continue fighting for the dignity of all human life,” the bishops said.
 
Argentina’s lower house of Congress voted 129 to 123 in favour of an initiative to decriminalise abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The motion now goes to the Senate.
 
The tight vote on the abortion issue reflected division in Argentine society, according to observers in the Catholic majority county. The law won support in the big cities, but was opposed in the provinces. Supporters and opponents crowded streets in the capital—with supporters waving green handkerchiefs—as legislators debated through the night and the outcome remained uncertain until the final hours.
 
A government survey taken in April showed Argentines split on this issue, with 46 per cent opposing legalisation and 45 per cent supporting it.
 
The president, Mauricio Macri, allowed the legislation to proceed, while expressing his own personal opposition to abortion. He called for a mature debate and said he would not veto any abortion legislation. 
 
One observer said the president’s willingness to allow the issue to be debated was being widely interpreted as a smokescreen, as Macri has pushed difficult economic reforms and the Argentine economy has faltered in 2018, with the currency plunging precipitously.
 
“While people are focused on the (abortion) debate, the economic policymakers can work without being disturbed, because all the public attention is focused on this debate and then the World Cup,” said Fernando Farias, an Argentine journalist.
 
“This is a good time to pass unpopular economic laws,” he said.
 
The then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—led Church opposition to a same-sex marriage bill, which was approved in 2010. Farias said the bishops’ opposition to abortion was somewhat subdued because Catholic laity led the opposition this time.
 
“The Church and Macri ... are not on as close terms as you would have expected,” Farias said, adding that some in the president’s party disapprove of the pope’s pronouncements on economic matters and his perceived closeness with controversial people in a previous government.
 
Guillermo Galeano, spokesperson for the Diocese of Lomas de Zamora, concurred that the legislation came at a time when tough economic issues were being discussed, but also that there had been a perception of “disagreements between the government and Pope Francis.”
 
He expects approval to be “more difficult” in the Senate, but cautioned: “It’s a surprise what happened today, so what happens in the Senate could also be a surprise.”
 
Argentina’s bishops took the approval of the legislation as a call to action.
 
“As pastors, this recent time has caused us to recognise weaknesses in our pastoral work: integral sexual education in our educational institutes, the full recognition of women and me and the accompaniment of women who are exposed to abortion or who have gone through this trauma. All of these are calls of a reality, which demands a response as a Church,” the bishops’ statement said.
 
“With humility and courage, we propose continuing to work in the service and care of life,” the bishops said.

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