The statement below was released by the laity of Sri Lanka to voice public support for decriminalizing abortion in some limited cases. It was created in reaction to the official stance taken by the Church hierarchy in Sri Lanka who intervened to stop decriminalization, condemning women and families to further suffer from the consequences of botched illegal abortions. 
Over 100 Sri Lankan Catholics have signed this statement

Statement from concerned members of the Catholic community in support of amending Penal Code No. 2 of 1883 and Code of Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979 for purposes of extending permitted instances of medical termination of pregnancy.

     We, the undersigned members of the Catholic community, support the proposed amendments that will expand abortion provisions in cases of rape, incest, and serious foetal impairment. The amendments do not compel anyone to have an abortion nor does it permit abortion in general. Rather, it simply decriminalizes procuring an abortion in two very limited cases. Criminalization of abortion does not prevent abortion but drives women to seek dangerous illegal abortions1.

     A study undertaken in the late 1990s estimated that 125,000 to 175,000 induced abortions, mostly illegal are performed annually in Sri Lanka2. A subsequent study estimated a much higher figure of 658 induced abortions per day, giving an abortion ratio of 741 per 1000 live births.3 The latest study
estimates that in 2007, 8.7 abortions took place per 100 women4. In the year 2013, the percentage contribution from abortion to maternal mortality was around 10%, making it the third most common cause of maternal death5. Furthermore, the Police Department showed that in 2015, 80% of all rape
victims were girls under the age of 16.6
     In light of this information and as Catholics driven by love and empathy for those in difficult situations, we object to any barrier that would stop women from making a conscientious choice of their own free will to seek safe, legal medical care.
     We also emphasize that the ‘official’ position put forward by a few clergymen of the Catholic hierarchy makes a false representation of the opinion of ordinary Catholics. We strongly object to the campaign they have led against this Bill and find its position antithetical to the call for radical justice and mercy that is found in the Gospels. Instead, we follow Catholic teaching and theology in supporting this Bill for the following reasons.
    We support the social conscience of decriminalizing abortion. As Article 6 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, Catholics “not only may but must follow the dictates of conscience rather than the teachings of the Church.” Catholics are obliged to know and thoughtfully consider Catholic teaching, but in the end, a well-formed conscience reigns7.
     We support the autonomy of women to make conscience-based decisions. We find that the most powerful backing for the autonomy of women itself comes from the many women detailed throughout Scripture, not least Mother Mary. As O’Neill, amongst others, note, “Mary’s consent to carrying, birthing and raising Jesus provides a powerful corrective to rape culture. Mary’s consent is the most important “yes” in salvation history because with that yes Mary bore the child of and participated in bringing to fulfilment God’s plan to redeem the world. God did not send the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus without Mary’s consent; Mary’s full verbal consent was required and obtained before Jesus was conceived. God waited for consent; and it was not “implied” or “presumed”
consent.”8 Mary’s fiat is a conscious and considered acceptance of what has been offered9.
     We maintain that life is precious. To this end, we support efforts to address the root causes of abortion-seeking, so we can create a world where every pregnancy is wanted. We support: frank and timely sex education; gender-sensitive, compassionate, non-judgmental support networks for people seeking guidance; psychosocial support in reproductive healthcare; and the Church’s support in addressing national concerns such as gender-based violence in its physical and psychological form.
     We reinforce the Catholic principle of mercy. We are against the condemnation of any rape victim to being twice powerless to choose what happens to her body. We are against the psychological torture of women with non-viable pregnancies through denial of safe abortion access. We stand with Article 11 of the Sri Lankan constitution that guarantees that ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.
     With attention to this principle of mercy, we call on the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka to prayerfully engage with the realities of the ground, open up dialogues with those affected, with medical professionals, frontline workers and women’s rights activists in order to walk towards a solution that integrates the question of justice and is emblematic of the richness of Catholic Social Teaching (Laudato Si 62-63).
     Furthermore, the Catholic Church should not rely on secular law to ensure that members of its community follow its teachings. The Bill does not compel anyone to seek abortion. Members of the Catholic community can continue to act of their own free will in accordance with their faith.

Articles that further reinforce Catholic support for access to procured abortion

- Theological argument for abortion up to 12 weeks: James Feiser, ‘Abortion’ in Moral Issues that Divide Us. 9th January 2011
- Sara Abdulla, ‘Can a Foetus Feel Pain?’, Times Higher Education (10 January 1997),
- GreggEasterbrook, ‘What Neither Side Wants You to Know: Abortion and Brain Waves’, New Republic (31 January 2000), 21–5.
- Paul D. Simmons, ‘Personhood, the Bible, and the Abortion Debate’ (WashingtonDC: Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, March 2005),
- 1974 Declaration on Procured Abortion
- Vatican officials defend the abortion procured by a 9 year old child raped by her step-father and impregnated with twins.


1 Sedgh, Gilda et al. ‘Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: global, regional, and subregional levels and trends.’ The Lancet , Volume 388 , Issue 10041 , 258 - 267
2 De Silva IW. The Practice of Induced Abortion in Sri Lanka, Harvard School of Public Health: Takemi Program in International Health 137, 1997.
3 Rajapaksa LC. Estimates of induced abortion using RRT Technique. Colombo, 2000.
4 Abeykoon ATPL. Estimates of abortion rate in Sri Lanka using Bongaarts model of proximate determinants of fertility. Colombo: The United Nations Population Fund, 2012.
5 Family Health Bureau. Annual Report on Family Health 2013. Colombo: Family Health Bureau, 2014.
6 “Over 80percent rape victims in Sri Lanka yest minor girls under 16” ColomboPage. 8 Jan 2016
“1,501 statutory rapes in 2015” Daily Mirror. 6 Jan 2016
7 McBrien, Richard, 1994, Catholicism: New Revised Version. London: HarperOne
8 O’Neill, Kate, 2015, “Mary as the Immaculate Conception and Rape Culture: Implied Consent and Actual
Consent.” Theology and Culture 3:33
9 Beattie, Tina, 2010, “Catholicism, Choice and Consciousness: A Feminist Theological Perspective on Abortion.”
International Journal of Public Theology, Volume 4.
- Catholic Portugal permitted abortion on demand in the first ten weeks of pregnancy after a nationwide referendum.
- Pope Francis grants all priests the authority to forgive abortions.


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