PANAMA CITY, Mar. 12, 2001 ( – While the government of Panama has signed and is considering ratifying the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Catholic Church has spoken out against the move. EFE reports that Panama’s Archbishop Jose Dimas Cedeno sent a message to the congress in which he expressed the Church’s rejection of the CEDAW protocol on the grounds that it paves the way for legalized abortion, currently considered a crime under Panamanian law except in cases where the mother’s life is said to be endangered.

The message notes that the protocol is an instrument used by industrialized nations to pressure less developed ones to establish objectionable family planning programs. The bishop explained that while the Church rejects discrimination against women, the protocol also includes articles regarding reproductive health that may include abortion.