Pro-lifer in Peru Now Heads a Key Panel

LIMA, Peru, AUG. 24, 2003 ( Observers are hoping the election of an independent congressman to the presidency of the congressional Health, Population and Family Commission will mark the end of a coercive population-control policy.

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Héctor Chávez — known for his pro-life stance and for presiding over the commission that accused then President Alberto Fujimori of violating the human rights of hundreds of thousands of peasant women through his campaign of massive sterilization — was elected last week by panel members and installed after a bitter debate.

Congressman Santos Jaimes asked Chávez to renounce his candidacy to the presidency of the commission because of his “confessional religious tendency, which is opposed to the principles of medical science.”

Fellow congressmen criticized Jaimes’ stance, accusing him of violating an elementary right of people: freedom of thought and conscience.

Jaimes, who favors abortion, then retreated and acknowledged that “we should not involve ourselves in the principles and faith of others.”

Addressing the group, the new president thanked his colleagues for his election and appealed to them to “unite their efforts and wills to work for the good of the great majorities.”

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