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Catholic Church Condemns Sterilization Law in Panama

On February 28, 2013, the National Assembly of Legislators passed a law that allows women over the age of 23 with two or more children to opt for a free sterilization.

TVN noticias [es] provided more information on their website:

En tanto el proyecto de ley 196 dispone que la esterilización femenina se hará ante una petición voluntaria de la mujer al médico tratante, por recomendación médica, en estado de emancipación, que tenga uno o más hijos, prueba de no embarazo certificada por una institución pública o por solicitud médica, de tutor o de la persona legalmente responsable de la mujer que tenga una enfermedad mental debidamente acreditada.

Bill 196 stipulates that feminine sterilization will be carried out in light of a woman's voluntary petition to the treating physician, per medical recommendation, in a state of emancipation, if the woman has one or more children, with proof that she is not pregnant certified by a public institution, or a medical request from the guardian or person legally responsible for a woman who has a duly accredited mental illness.

The law provoked a reaction from the Catholic Church, who, through Metropolitan Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa, has called the measure [es] “disastrous.” The Archbishop also claimed that the law placed Panama in danger of ending up “aged” like many European nations that have taken similar measures.

The Panamanian population has had mixed reactions. On the one hand, there are those who believe sterilization is a woman's personal choice and that the church has no right to offer its opinion on this type of law, but others are outraged over this “anti-life” legislation.

Ernesto Alvarado believes that 23 years old is too young for such a procedure and women could subsequently regret the decision. Ernesto writes the following in Hora Cero [es]:

El Peligro que percibo es lo referente a la edad de la persona. En España 1 de cada 100 personas que se ha practicado la esterilización con fines anticonceptivos, busca su des esterilización, por las siguientes razones: cambio de pareja, muerte de los hijos, mejora situación médica o social o razones psicológicas.

 Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de Panamá


Panama City's Metropolitan Cathedral, foto taken from Javier Volcan's Flickr under the Creative Commons License(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The danger that I perceive is referring to the person's age. In Spain, 1 out of every 100 people that has practiced sterilization for contraception looks to undo the sterilization for the following reasons: change of partners, death of a child, improved medical or social situations, or psychological reasons.

Yohel Amat (@te_interesa) [es] is of the opinion that the Catholic Church should solve its own internal problems before stating its opinion on sterilization:

@te_interesa: ¿Q hacen voceros católicos hablando en contra d la esterilización femenina voluntaria, cuando tienen “el rancho ardiendo”? #WTF #Panama

@te_interesa: What are Catholic spokespeople doing speaking out against feminine sterilization when they have their own set of problems? #WTF #Panama

Alfonso Grimaldo (@AlfonsoAGP) [es] says that each person is responsible for making the decisions they consider right for their body:

@AlfonsoAGP: Your body, your choice. Always. (Tu cuerpo, tu elección, siempre.) Ninguno de nosotros aceptaría que nos dijeran como vivir nuestras vidas.

@AlfonsoAGP: Your body, your choice. Always. None of us would accept anyone else telling us how to live our lives.

Xavier (@tortugaconqueso) [es] asks the church to not impose its ideas on others:

@tortugaconqueso: Mantengan sus visiones retrógradas de lo que debería ser la sociedad dentro de sus templos y lejos de la asamblea, por favor.

@tortugaconqueso: Keep your reactionary visions on what society should be within your temples and far away from the assembly, please.

Positions are divided and there are even Christians that agree with the new law, which makes the Catholic Church's official reaction confusing, as Ana Lorraine J. (@analorrainej) [es] expresses:

@analorrainej: Yo no se uds pero yo veo hasta religiosos a favor de la ley, no entiendo la posición de Ulloa.

@analorrainej: I don't know about you, but I even see religious individuals in favor of the law so I don't understand Ulloa's position.

The law is still awaiting the president's signature, but it appears as though the voices of the Catholic Church will be heard, as the President of the National Assembly of Legislators promised to speak to President Ricardo Martinelli to make a number of changes, as La Critica [es] reports:

Gálvez indicó que conversaría con el presidente Ricardo Martinelli para ver de qué manera se modificaban algunos temas que son de la objeción de la Iglesia católica.

Gálvez indicated that he would speak with President Ricardo Martinelli to see how some issues that the Catholic Church objected to would be modified.

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