The Bishops Conference of Guatemala rejected a "post-abortion care" initiative by the Ministry of Health, pointing out that it would provide a direct opening towards abortion and other abuses of women, CatholicNewsAgency reports.
In a document criticizing the World Health Organization's anti-life policies, the bishops also warned against the Ministry's "care" campaign, saying, "Our Constitution protects human life from the moment of conception." They were referring to the third article of the Guatemalan constitution, which underlines the state's protection of the unborn person.
The Ministry initiative would train medical personnel to use suction machines on women in a "post-abortion situation." The bishops clearly condemned the idea, pointing out that this is only a step away from performing actual abortions. In practice, noted the bishops, it would move "from post-abortion care to facilitating an abortion through the use of a suction machine."
Abortions would be encouraged, the bishops added, "even though it would not be an official policy. In addition, the project would open the door to a whole host of other abuses, for it would "encourage the use of this method clandestinely in places away from health care facilities that don't have the minimum standards of hygiene, much less the necessary medical equipment to address complications that may arise."
Alejandro Silva, director of the Reproductive Health Program, of the Ministry of Health, declared that the post-abortion treatments would only be administered in hospitals and under all the safety measures, Prensa Libre reports. Nevertheless, as the bishops commented, "trained personnel, if they are unscrupulous, could offer this service especially to teens, which would cause themselves great moral and physical harm."
Voicing their compassion for women who have had abortions, the bishops stated, "We agree that the best care possible should be given to women who have gone through such a situation, but not by suctioning the uterus in order to implant an intra-uterine device afterwards, as health officials are promoting."
They urged that the money be redirected towards instructing young people about chastity and abstinence and for the "promotion of ethical and moral values among young people.
"We must get to the root of the problem," they said, by "inviting young people to live their lives based on principles of chastity and abstinence and not on the promotion of irresponsible sexual conduct that goes hand in hand with the consumption of contraceptives."
Calling for the constitution to be respected and remain unchanged, the bishops concluded, "We urge authorities not to support anything that could harm, in any way, the physical integrity of Guatemalans, especially those who are the weakest, as is the case of the unborn, who cannot defend themselves at all or avoid the actions that are taken against their lives."
At present abortion is illegal in Guatemala, except in the extreme case that an abortion would save the life of the mother. Last year, congress voted for a Family Planning bill that would have promoted contraception and sex-education. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court put the new bill under provisional suspension only a week after it was enacted.
As of last year, Guatemala had one of the highest birth rates in Central America with only 40% of women using a form of contraceptive. As a consequence the United Nations has targeted the country and pushed for the legalization of abortion.