By John Jalsevac

East Timor, June 9, 2009 ( – The East Timor parliament has passed a new penal code that criminalizes abortion, penalizing those who commit an abortion with the mother's consent with up to 3 years in prison. The code points out that life needs to be protected “from the moment of conception.” The law goes on to specify that in certain extreme circumstances when the mother's life is imminently in danger, and all efforts to save both mother and child have been attempted and failed, then efforts to ”interrupt” the pregnancy may be pursued if it is the “only way” to save the life of the mother. The new code is a dramatically more pro-life version of the penal code that was passed by the East Timor Council of Ministers in April, that would have permitted abortion in broad circumstances where the physical or mental health of the mother or the unborn child was in danger.**

The modifications to the law since the Council of Minister's version mark a stiff blow for pro-abortion organizations, including the UN and East Timorese feminist organizations, who have been agitating for the strongly Catholic country to significantly liberalize its abortion law, and who temporarily seemed to have gained a major victory with the passage of the more liberal version of the code in April.

LSN has learned that two of the East Timorese feminist organizations that have been at the forefront of the effort to liberalize the abortion law, and that have come head to head with the country’s Catholic bishops in the process, are funded by the Canadian bishops’ official development arm, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P). 

D&P has in recent months been embroiled in a widespread scandal, after LSN and other pro-life researchers revealed that the Catholic group is funding numerous strongly pro-abortion groups around the world, and that it has no policy against doing so (to see all coverage, click here). Yesterday LSN reported that the Peruvian bishops have now written to the Canadian bishops demanding that they stop funding pro-abortion groups in their country.

LSN had previously reported that one of D&P’s five East Timorese partners was leading the effort to have abortion legalized. The UN information service IRIN reported in March that FOKUPERS, an East Timorese feminist organization and D&P partner, had organized a working group devoted to pressuring the government to legalize abortion in cases of incest or sexual abuse.

Now LSN has confirmed that a second D&P partner has also been central in the push to legalize abortion – a push that, with the help of the East Timor Catholic bishops, has mostly been thwarted for the time being.

The most recent report by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, dated April 9, 2009, explains that in 2005 the East Timor Government and the Catholic Church issued a joint statement proposing the criminalization of abortion. However, at that time the government also agreed to open up discussion on the issue with feminist groups, namely the Alola Foundation and REDE FETO. The latter group is listed as a “partner” of D&P, and receives funding that is ultimately derived from collections from Canadian Catholics in the pews.

After discussions in the summer of 2005 the two groups issued a list of recommendations, including the recommendation to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or risk to the health of the mother.

Despite the recent failure of the UN and feminist groups to widen the country’s abortion law, there is evidence that the effort to push for more Western-style abortion-on-demand legislation is only beginning.

The Alola Foundation only recently released a report, funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), on maternal mortality and what it calls “unsafe abortions.” Towards the end of the report, in the list of recommendations, the Foundation writes that abortion should not be criminalized in East Timor, but rather simply regulated. This, says the Foundation, will lower the risk of “unsafe” abortions.

However, as pro-life advocates are well aware, the issue of “unsafe” abortions is frequently used by pro-abortion organizations as a wedge issue to force open the laws of countries where abortion continues to be penalized. As former abortionist Bernard Nathanson testified after his conversion to the pro-life cause, he and others in the abortion movement would deliberately and massively inflate numbers of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortions in an effort to pressure countries to legalize the procedure, ostensibly in an effort to make it “safe.”

“Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public,” said Nathanson. “The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law.”

With the UNFPA and the UN committee responsible for the implementation of CEDAW both targeting East Timor, along with a number of East Timor feminist groups, it may only be a matter of time before the country’s abortion law is made more hostile to the rights of the unborn. However, with the East Timor Catholic Church – which represents upward of 95% of residents – continuing to fight for the right to life of the unborn in the country, that day may never come.

In April the country’s two bishops issued a pastoral letter explaining that abortion is a grave violation of the dignity of all human life and that even in emergency situations doctors should work to save the lives of both the mother and the unborn child.   

However, the great irony remains that tens of thousands of dollars are flowing from the pews of Canada’s Catholic churches, through the hands of Development and Peace, to groups that are helping fight the East Timor bishops’ efforts to promote a culture of life in their country.

There have been growing calls from pro-life Canadians and pro-life leaders in developing nations for a new large scale social justice intiative of funding of pro-life, pro-family efforts in developing nations. This is said to be urgently needed to help these vulnerable nations resist the imperialist pressures on them from powerful First World groups to legalize the killing of unborn children and thereby also undermine the countries' family and religious cultures.

See the LSN Feature Page on Development and Peace here

To RESPECTFULLY contact any Canadian bishop click here

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