Indonesian bishops slam gvmt for supporting abortion in cases of disability and rape
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed an edict in July to curb abuse of the nation’s 2009 Health Law, which liberalized the nation’s longstanding ban on abortion by allowing exceptions for children conceived in rape, along with children diagnosed with life-threatening disabilities.
But Indonesia’s Roman Catholic bishops recently condemned the edict, saying it doesn’t go far enough because abortion shouldn’t be legal at all.
In a public statement issued September 5, the bishops argued that all human life is worthy of protection, regardless of how it came to be or what its future might hold.
“Every human being has the right to live, by the mere fact of living,” the bishops wrote.
"The Church has always shown great respect for human life, from the very beginning, which is why life must always be defended and protected."
Until 2009, Indonesian law had banned all abortion, calling it immoral. But the 2009 Health Law allowed mothers to abort babies for “significant” reasons: when the conception is due to rape, to save the mother’s life, or in cases where a baby is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or deformity.
Abortionists and their clients who don’t meet the exception requirements can still be charged with crimes – abortionists can serve up to 10 years in prison; their clients, up to 4 years. But even with such stiff penalties, Indonesian officials felt the 2009 law was ripe for abuse. So last month, the president issued new regulations limiting legal abortions to the first 40 days after the last menstrual cycle, and clarifying exactly what constitutes a “life-threatening health condition” for both mothers and babies. The new regulation also stipulates that mothers seeking abortions for medical reasons obtain permission from their husbands.
While pro-abortion groups have decried the new regulations as an effective ban on all abortion, since many women don’t realize they are pregnant until after the new time limit, the Catholic bishops oppose the regulations on the grounds that exceptions shouldn’t even exist in the first place.
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While urging “compassion towards the victims” of sexual assault, the bishops pointed out that babies conceived in rape are not responsible for their parentage any more than the victim is. Quoting Pope John Paul II, they wrote, “the unborn child is in no way responsible for the disgraceful acts accomplished, he or she is innocent and therefore cannot be treated as the aggressor.”
As for babies with poor prenatal diagnoses, the bishops wrote that disabilities and illnesses “do not lessen the dignity” of human life. Abortion for eugenic reasons, the bishops wrote, "violates morality and must be strongly rejected.”
The bishops called on the Catholic faithful throughout Indonesia, especially doctors and other health care workers, to defend life from fertilization to natural death. Noting that God calls on the faithful to stand up for the weak and vulnerable, they pointed out that unborn children are the weakest and most vulnerable population in any society, due to their inability to speak up for themselves and express their thoughts and emotions.
"This is why the embryo must be defended and protected,” explained the bishops. They went on to remind the Catholic faithful that according to canon law, “those who advocate, promote and perform abortions … are excommunicated.”