Switzerland to Hold Referendum on Abortion Next Summer

Catholic Bishops Appeal on Behalf of Women in Difficulty

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BERNE, Switzerland, SEPT. 10, 2001 (Zenit.org).- This country´s Catholic bishops warn that next year´s referendum on the legalization of abortion could lead to a greater abandonment of women in difficulty.

«One of the first responsibilities of the Church and of the state is to protect life in all its phases, including the life of the handicapped and the human life of the unborn,» the bishops stressed in a published statement.

«Any voluntary interruption of pregnancy implies the death of a human being,» they noted. «Hence, it is not ethically admissible, regardless of the legislation in force.»

The referendum will decide whether the criminal code is changed. Last April, Parliament gave its approval to the code, which broadened the conditions under which a woman could have an abortion legally.

The change allows a woman to have an abortion after describing her difficulties to one doctor. In the past, two doctors had to agree that there was a serious risk to the life or health of the mother or, ironically, the child.

«The state no longer takes seriously its duty to protect unborn, vulnerable human life, and amply delegates the protection of this life to the woman or her doctor, without proposing adequate assistance to women in need,» the bishops lamented.

The change of the code introduces legal abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The bishops rejected this, observing that science has discovered how the human person is constituted from the first moment of conception.

The Swiss episcopal conference also stated that the question of abortion cannot be resolved solely by criminal law. The state must adopt an ensemble of measures that will support women in difficulty and protect the family, the bishops insisted.

Such measures should include, they said, maternity insurance, maternity leave, financial help for children, day-care centers and nurseries, reduction of insurance expenses for sickness, and tax relief.

The Swiss bishops proposed a system of aid and consultation for pregnant women, which will give them concrete help and support by the state.

The episcopal declaration was published at the end of the bishops´ ordinary assembly held Sept. 3-5.

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