Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Vatican Condemns Abortion, Birth Control for Refugees. (World)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Vatican Condemns Abortion, Birth Control for Refugees. (World)

Article excerpt

Putting a new exclamation point on a long-held position, the Vatican has again condemned the inclusion of birth control and abortion among services offered to refugees by international aid agencies.

The sharp condemnation of "anti-values" that "offend the dignity of the poorest and most vulnerable populations" came in a multilingual document jointly issued by three curial agencies. This unusual procedure generally signals a matter of strong Vatican interest.

The document, dated Sept. 14, was made public by the Vatican Nov. 8. It was motivated by the 1999 issuance of a field manual for United Nations personnel, published by the United Nations High Commission for Refugee Affairs.

The Vatican asserts that the manual reflects "utilitarian" and "Malthusian" values rooted in "moral and intellectual confusion" about the nature of the human person. "In its attempts to promote individual freedom," the Vatican says, the manual "neglects corresponding individual and social duties."

Specifically, the Vatican condemns:

* The use of "emergency contraception" after forced sexual intercourse, in part because Vatican experts regard the so-called "morning after pill" as a "chemical abortion." The idea that an embryo is simply "a bunch of cells," according to the document, is a "sophism ... that does not have a precise biological basis."

* Other methods of contraception with "a well-known abortive effect," such as a pill based on progestogens, injectable contraceptives (Depo-Provera), implants (Norplant) and the IUD.

* Sterilization, "often carried out in poor countries without the victim always being correctly informed."

* Separation between sexuality and procreation.

* Promotion of a "nonjudgmental approach" to extramarital relations and homosexuality. The Vatican criticizes sex education programs in which "boys and girls are introduced into the world of individualistic and irresponsible sexual pleasure, which increases the risk of extending the HIV/AIDS epidemic."

* The "ubiquity of condoms in massive quantities," despite their "not insignificant rate of failure."

* The presence in a refugee milieu of equipment that can be used for abortions, especially MVAs, multiple vacuum aspirators.

Though the treatment of these points in the document is unusually extensive, in essence these points reflect longstanding disagreements between the Vatican and international agencies, especially the United Nations, on approaches to the reproductive health of refugees.

In 1993, for example, John Paul II issued a letter to Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, in which the pope rejected suggestions that Bosnian women who had been raped during ethnic conflict in the Balkans should be helped to abort pregnancies. …

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