Belgium's bishops oppose proposals to liberalize abortion laws

Belgium’s bishops oppose proposals to liberalize abortion laws

Belgium’s bishops oppose proposals to liberalize abortion laws

Monks from the Saint Sixtus Trappist Abbey walk by election campaign posters as they walk to a polling station in Westvleteren, Belgium, Sunday, May 26, 2019. Belgium’s parliament is currently considering several proposals to liberalize the country’s abortion laws. (Credit: Olivier Matthys/AP.)

In a joint statement, the Catholic bishops of Belgium criticize the further liberalization of abortion law in the country.

In a joint statement, the Catholic bishops of Belgium criticize the further liberalization of abortion law in the country.

Several left-wing and liberal parties in the Belgian parliament recently submitted proposals for the relaxation of existing legislation. They want to permanently remove abortion from the criminal code, remove the requirement for a mandatory consultation in advance, and raise the limit to when an abortion can take place from 12 weeks of gestation to 18 or even 20 weeks.

Since the current federal government of Belgium is a minority caretaker cabinet, and the influence of the Christian Democratic party is limited, the leftist parties hope to press their pro-abortion agenda.

The Belgian bishops call it “incomprehensible how such an important and delicate matter is dealt with so quickly and without any prior fundamental debate.”

According to the declaration signed by Cardinal Jozef De Kesel and all the bishops of Belgium, the proposed changes to the law mean not only a change in abortion practice, but also a change in the meaning of pregnancy interruption itself.

“Abortion becomes an ordinary medical intervention,” according to the bishops, which doesn’t do justice “to what those involved experience. Why ask for advice or help any longer? The questions will not be taken seriously in the first place. It will only make the desperation and loneliness [of the women involved] greater.”

The bishops are also concerned about the right of doctors to ask questions or refuse abortions. According to the bishops’ statement, freedom of conscience is being further restricted by the proposals.

“Several concerns have also been raised in the press and in the medical and academic world. And not from one particular ideological angle. For this is a problem that concerns us all and society itself. But it is as if arguments no longer matter.”

The latter point was also endorsed by Brother René Stockman in an opinion article in the Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad this week. The Belgian expert in psychiatric nursing, and Superior General of the Brothers of Charity, speaks of a “watershed” between emotions and common sense in the public debate about life issues.

“There is hardly any question of a critical reply,” said Stockman. “Nobody wants to be as unmerciful or unsympathetic to question self-determination and autonomy. Who would dare do such a thing? It’s like going back in time. All possible arguments against further liberalization and legalization of both abortion and euthanasia are swept away by emotions and are silenced. Emotions are the only thing that matters today, not the arguments.”


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