By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, Latin America Correspondent

CARACAS, July 14, 2009 ( – Venezuela’s Catholic bishops are denouncing a proposed legal reform that is likely to result in the legalization of abortion and homosexual “marriage” nationwide.

The bishops state that although the bill currently under consideration by the Venezuelan Congress claims to promote such values as equality and solidarity, “we have well-founded reasons to affirm that within it serious violations and irreparable damage is committed against fundamental rights and structures of Venezuelan society recognized and guaranteed in our Constitution.”

The new law, they continue, “seriously offends rights that are consecrated and protected by our National Constitution, specifically the institutions of marriage and the family, and the superior interests of boys, girls, and adolescents consecrated in articles 75, 76, 77, and 78 of the Constitution, by legitimizing same-sex unions, awarding them the same juridical and patrimonial effects as those of matrimony.”

“In the bill these rights are rendered juridically vulnerable. It likewise ignores the constitutional protection of the right of inviolability of human life, whether through contraceptive methods or by abortion.”

According to the Associated Press, Marelis Perez, President of the Committee on the Family of the Venezuelan Congress, denies that abortion or civil unions for homosexual couples are mentioned in the bill.

However, the text of the proposed law, which is called the “Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality,” uses language common among pro-abortion groups to promote the “right” to an abortion, while not explicitly using the term.

The bill defends the right to “sexual and reproductive health,” a common euphemism for abortion, and says this includes “the capacity to enjoy a satisfactory sexual life, responsible, without risks and the liberty to choose or not to choose to procreateâEUR¦”. It also defends the “right” to “decide freely, responsibly, and without coercion or violence to have or not to have sons or daughters, the number and the interval of births.”

The bill also contains language that can easily be interpreted as establishing a “right” to homosexual unions, defending the “right of every person to live a pleasurable, responsible, and freely decided sexuality and the capacity to exercise sexual orientation and identity and expressions of gender without discrimination and in conditions of equalityâEUR¦”

The bishops are urging Venezuelans to act to defend the right to life and the family from the threat posed by the bill.

“When the institution of matrimony and of the family, which are the pillars of a society, are threatened by social, economic, ideological, or juridical situations, the various institutions of the society must begin to move in their defense,” they write.

“In consequence the reaction and rejection of the society is legitimate when the dignity of the human person and the rights which are inherent in him are placed in danger, such as the enjoyment of a family structure constituted by a man and a woman and their children.”

Although Venezuela is regarded as having the most leftist government in South America, its president, Hugo Chavez, has done little to promote anti-life and anti-family policies during his tenure. It remains to be seen if the alliance of socialist parties that support Chavez will advance the bill or will block it in accordance with traditional Venezuelan values.