– After an event featuring abortion rights activists was held at a Mexican Jesuit university, the president of the Mexican bishops’ conference reiterated that the Church opposes abortion, and said that he had no prior knowledge of the event and that this forum was not authorized by the Church.

Abortion is illegal in Mexico. However, in 2007 Mexico City, the country’s capital, decriminalized abortion for up to 12 weeks for any reason. By some estimates, there have been two million abortions there since that time.

In his communiqué entitled “No to Abortion,” Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega stated “Our position as believers is founded on both Sacred Scripture and the magisterium of the Church as well as natural law and what science has demonstrated regarding the beginning of the existence of the human being.”

“Serious scientific studies prove the existence of a life, of a different person, from the moment of conception. Respect for life must not be subject to a debate, nor some eagerness for ‘openness’ or to be ‘cutting edge,’  even less so for questions of taste or feelings, as if respect for life could depend on what some people feel or think,” the prelate pointed out.

Nor can respect for life, he added, “be subject to the arbitrariness of personal conscience alone, because the conscience must be objectively formed and because what it in question is the life of an innocent person.”

“When we talk about this issue—and we don’t accept abortion—it’s not a matter of intolerance or rejecting dialogue, but of coherence with the right of every person to live, especially if it’s an innocent person, the one yet to be born,” Ortega pointed out.

The controversial university program was held Sept. 26 at the ITESO (Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of the West), Jesuit University of Guadalajara. It was entitled “Dialogue concerning the Right to Decide,” and featured three presenters wearing the green kerchief of the pro-abortion movement in Latin America. The speakers were affiliated with organizations that promote the legalization of abortion in Mexico and other countries in the world: CLADEM, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights; GIRE, the Informational Group on Chosen Reproduction, and Catholic Women for the Right to Decide.

CLADEM campaigns for legalized abortion throughout Latin America.  GIRE has reportedly received more than $100 million dollars from the International Planned Parenthood Federation over the last ten years. Catholic Women for the Right to Decide (Catholics for Choice in the U.S.) has been condemned by bishops in various parts of the world.

At the center of the controversy is the Jesuit priest and outgoing rector of the university, Father José Morales Orozco.

In defending the university’s decision to hold the event, Orozco stated that “ITESO is for life, is against abortion, but before that it is for freedom of conscience,” explaining that “people have every right and obligation to decide in conscience what they see and nobody can judge, only God.”

In a statement to ACI Prensa, an ITESO spokesman said that “human life is sacred and always must be cared for and respected” and pointed out that Orozco “at the activity made it clear that the university is for life and against abortion, and for freedom of conscience.”

ITESO “dialogues with people of different religious and political beliefs, different ethnic and cultural origins. A respectful exchange of ideas is brought about with those who think differently because this is how the reflection of the university is developed and deepened and  knowledge is increased.”

The university added that “abortion is one of the five main causes of maternal death, and these cases occur especially with poor women. It’s an issue that must be reviewed and discussed from the ethical and moral point of view, as well as its implication in terms of social justice and public health policy.”

Nevertheless, there was no presenter at the forum to explain the Church’s teaching or its basis in the sciences.

In response to the event, the president for the National Front for the Family for the state of Jalisco, Jaime Cedillo, demanded that ITESO not be a “platform to promote” abortion advocates.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, Cedillo criticized that the event at the Jesuit university was used “as a promotion of an international movement sponsored by large organizations that promote abortion.”

“At an educational institution like the university, which has a Christian inspiration, it can’t lend itself as a platform for the culture of abortion,” he noted.

Cedillo expressed his dismay that the position against abortion was not presented in order to open the doors to “a healthy debate at the university.”

He added that if a university “defends a clear position, obviously it can’t lend itself to a scenario that openly promotes something to the contrary.”

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.