South African Law Lets Nurses Perform Abortions

Bishops’ Conference Spoke Out Against Bill

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PRETORIA, South Africa, AUG. 23, 2004 ( Catholic bishops’ opposition notwithstanding, South Africa’s Parliament approved a bill broadening access to abortions by allowing nurses to perform the operation.

The bill, approved last week, also allows all public and private hospitals with a 24-hour maternity facility to perform abortions in the first quarter of the year without seeking approval from the government’s health ministry.

Earlier in the month, the South African bishops’ conference issued an appeal, especially to Catholic medical personnel, to mobilize against abortion.

The parliamentary debate on Choice and Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill «challenges us once more to uphold the sanctity of human life from conception until death, and to condemn abortion as an act gravely contrary to the law of God,» the bishops’ conference explained in a statement Aug. 11, at the end of its plenary session.

The statement expressed the bishops’ concern over the bill that «seeks to extend to nurses the right to destroy innocent life through even more freely available abortions.»

«We note with great sadness that 330,000 innocent human lives have been destroyed since the Abortion Act came into operation in 1997,» the bishops continued. «There is no doubt that the aim of the proposed amendment is to increase the number of abortions in our country and as a Church we deplore this onslaught on the lives of the unborn.»

Therefore, the «Catholic Church calls on all Catholic medical personnel to insist on their constitutional rights, respecting their freedom of conscience, and to refuse to cooperate in the performance of abortions,» the bishops’ conference statement continues, addressed to the country’s 5 million Catholics.

Meanwhile, the episcopal conference also announced that it will donate some $310,000 to fund programs and initiatives in the struggle against AIDS in Botswana and South Africa. The conference includes the bishops of Botswana and Swaziland. The amount is added to the more than $1 million allocated to projects this year.

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