Children play in the village of Sochanoue, a community that resides on a lake outside Cotonou, Benin, Nov. 22, 2011. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)
Catholics in Benin are continuing their opposition to a new law that legalized abortion in the West Africa nation.
The Benin Catholic bishops’ conference has been in the forefront of the opposition to the law, saying that abortion violates human life and dignity.
Bishop Victor Agbanou of Lokossa, Benin, bishops’ conference president, said the law that parliament adopted Oct. 20 runs contrary to church teaching that all life is sacred from conception to natural death.
“As a church, we cannot remain silent when people and institutions fail to respect human life. We need to protect the life of the unborn. Terminating pregnancy is committing murder,” Agbanou told Catholic News Service.
He called on the Beninese people “to follow God’s teaching and recognize that human life is sacred and a gift from God, which needs to be respected and protected.”
Provisions under the law that governs sexual and reproductive health allows women to terminate pregnancies up to 12 weeks if it is likely to “aggravate or cause material, educational, professional or moral distress, incompatible with the woman or the unborn child’s interest.”
In the days leading to the parliamentary vote, the country’s Catholic bishops urged lawmakers multiple times to vote down the measure.
In a statement Oct. 19, a day before the vote, the bishops issued an emotional challenge to members of parliament, asking them again to say “a categorical NO to the culture of death.”
“Abortion is an inhuman act that destroys the life of the fetus but also that of the mother in many ways,” the bishops said.
In a country of more than 12 million, where Catholics are about 23 percent of the population, residents have continued to protest the new law, saying it denies children and the family the right to life.
Catechist George Odion told CNS that the church was planning to start mobilizing its members across dioceses and archdioceses in the country to ignore the new law and instead show respect for life and human dignity.
“We are telling Catholics and people of this country to resist any moves by parliament to legalize abortion,” Odion said, noting that the law runs contrary to God’s plan for human life. “We urge women never to allow to be used to commit murder through abortion. They should give their babies a chance to live.”
“No one would be alive today if we were all aborted by our mothers,” he added.
The law has support among some Catholics, however.
Faith Arasomwan, 48, said she was pleased to learn that the legislation was approved by lawmakers.
“This is a win for the women of this country,” the mother of three told CNS by phone from Benin’s capital, Porto-Novo. “We have suffered for so long as women and I thank the lawmakers for finally passing this law. The women now have the right to walk to any hospital and carry out an abortion if they meet the conditions defined by the law.”
Arasomwan said her motivation to back the law comes barely three years after her daughter died while trying to terminate a pregnancy using traditional herbs. She said she believes the law will save the lives of young women.
“My daughter was raped by her male friend and conceived, but as a teenager who wanted to continue with her education, she decided to terminate the pregnancy without telling me,” Arasomwan said. Her daughter died, she said, on arrival at a hospital after she was discovered to be bleeding heavily.
“My daughter wouldn’t have died if we had this new law in place,” she said.