FaithWorld

from India Insight:

Woman’s death poses tough abortion questions for India and Ireland

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

The death of a 31-year-old Indian woman in Ireland after doctors refused to give her an abortion has sparked protests in her home country of India as well as in Ireland.

Activists in Ireland said that ending Savita Halappanavar's pregnancy could have saved her life. She died of septicaemia following a miscarriage 17 weeks into her pregnancy. Her family believes that the delay in removing the foetus contributed to the blood poisoning.

Ireland, whose population is 84 percent Roman Catholic, has some of the world’s most restrictive laws on abortion, and critics say that doctors placed faith, as embodied in those laws, above her well being when they decided not to abort Halappanavar's foetus -- despite her repeated requests.

“She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby," her husband told reporters. "The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’, but they said there was nothing they could do.”

Many U.S. Catholics have independent streak – survey

A majority of American Roman Catholics feel strongly about the sacraments and traditional church values such as caring for the poor, but they may not agree with the church teachings on topics such as abortion, same-sex marriage and maintaining a celibate, male clergy, a survey has found.

The “Catholics in America” survey of Roman Catholics published by the National Catholic Reporter found 86 percent said Catholics can disagree with aspects of church teaching and still remain loyal to the church.

“Stated in simplest terms, Catholics in the past 25 years have become more autonomous when making decisions about important moral issues; less reliant on official teaching in reaching those decisions; and less deferential to the authority of the Vatican and individual bishops,” according to the study led by William D’Antonio, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America.

Pity the pandering U.S. candidate

Politicians pandering for votes on conservative family values issues may want to think again.

A survey of 3,000 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute found 42 percent said the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” both described them well, illustrating the complexity of the abortion issue in the minds of many.

“The terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ does not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion,” said Robert Jones, head of the institute.

Up to 12 million girls aborted in India over last 30 years, new study says

(A girl stands on posters during a rally against abortion in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad October 2, 2008/Krishnendu Halder)

Up to 12 million girls were aborted over the last three decades in India by parents that tended to be richer and more educated, a large study in India found, and researchers warned that the figure could rise with falling fertility rates.

The missing daughters occurred mostly in families which already had a first born daughter. Although the preference for boys runs across Indian society, the abortions were more likely to be carried out by educated parents who were aware of ultrasound technology and who could afford abortions.

Philippine Catholic bishops clash with Aquino over contraception bill

(Participants sit below a huge banner during a mass against a reproductive health (RH) bill in Luneta park, metro Manila, March 25, 2011/Romeo Ranoco)

Philippine Catholic bishops on Tuesday walked out of talks with the government over a planned bill allowing contraception in open opposition to President Benigno Aquino who vowed to push the bill into law. Aquino pledged last month to push for the enactment of a reproductive health bill in Congress in a bid to lower the maternal death rate in the Philippines, even at the risk of excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

The church, a major social and political force in the poor Southeast Asian nation, has blocked similar bills since the 1990s by talking to lawmakers and has denounced Aquino’s support for contraception, considered a sin.

Huge Manila human cross for Lent, against abortion

manila cross

(People form a black and white Dominican cross in Manila March 9, 2011/Cheryl Ravelo)

Thousands of Filipinos lined up across a football field in Manila to mark the start of Lent by forming a human cross they hoped would go down as the world’s biggest. Officials at the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic university that at 400 years old is the nation’s oldest, said the Ash Wednesday event was also a proclamation of the school’s stand against abortion and a controversial bill on reproductive health currently being debated.

More than 20,000 people, including students, faculty members and university personnel, the students wearing black t-shirts or white school uniforms, stood side by side to form a two-colored Dominican cross while prayers were recited and songs sung.

European human rights court faults Ireland on abortion ban

echr (Photo: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 30, 2009/Vincent Kessler)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Ireland on Thursday for stopping a Lithuanian cancer sufferer from terminating a pregnancy, in a blow to the predominantly Catholic country and its tough abortion laws. In a final ruling, the rights court found Ireland had not respected the privacy and family rights of the Lithuanian woman, who was living in Ireland and feared a pregnancy could trigger a relapse of her cancer, in remission at the time.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ordered Ireland to pay 15,000 euros ($19,840) in damages to the woman, who was forced to travel to Britain, where the laws are more liberal, to have an abortion. Terminating a pregnancy has long been a fraught issue in Ireland, where some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe allow terminations only when the mother’s life is in danger.

“The Court concluded that neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed (her) to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland,” it said a statement on the ruling. Here is a court press release and the full text of the judgment.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and abortion at U.S. military bases…

One little-reported aspect of the political wrangling around attempts to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the U.S. military was how the religious right tied it to another hot-button cultural issue: abortion.

This would certainly have caught the attention of socially conservative Republicans who were instrumental in defeating a measure aimed at its repeal in the U.S. Senate on Thursday night.

Many if not most conservative U.S. evangelicals were already strongly opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military — a point underscored by a Pentagon study unveiled at the end of November that found that military chaplains were strongly opposed to ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Pope in Spain urges Europe to keep spiritual roots

pope 1 (Photo: Pope Benedict at  Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, November 6, 2010/Stefano Rellandini)

Pope Benedict, on a lightning trip to Spain, urged Europe on Saturday to re-discover God and its Christian heritage and also denounced the country’s liberal abortion laws.

“Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear,” he said in the sermon of a Mass for more than 20,000 people in the square of Santiago de Compostela, which has been a major pilgrimage destination since medieval times.

Spain’s Roman Catholic Church, whose image was stained by its close relationship with Francisco Franco during his 36-year dictatorship, has clashed with the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero over gay rights and abortion. Read the full story by Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana in English here and in Spanish here.

Brazil’s Rousseff survives abortion row, looks set to win presidency

rousseff (Photo: Dilma Rousseff looks up before a television debate in Sao Paulo October 25, 2010/Nacho Doce)

Dilma Rousseff, front-runner in Brazil’s presidential race, appears to have successfully shifted the focus of the campaign away from corruption and her controversial views on abortion and back to the shining economic legacy of her popular former boss, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Rousseff, a 62-year-old career civil servant and former leftist militant, fell short of the majority of votes needed to win the election outright in the October 3 first round as last-minute doubts of many evangelical Christian and Catholic voters about her support for abortion rights probably cost the Workers’ Party candidate an outright victory. Opposition challenger Jose Serra then closed her poll lead to as little as four points.

But her shift in focus appears to have re-energized her base in Brazil’s emerging lower-middle class, which has nearly doubled in size under Lula’s mix of market-friendly policies and social welfare programs, and now accounts for about half the population. Rousseff has promised to stick to Lula’s policies.