This is part three of a four-part news report detailing what ACI Africa has gathered regarding activities by a U.S.-based research company testing drug-induced, second-trimester abortion, something that women in the U.S. do not want. In this part, African Church leaders go beyond described contexts of the abortion tests and the leaders’ general take contained in part one and two respectively. Here, sampled leaders express their condemnation of the controversial process described as part of “the culture of death” that seems to characterize the present world. The way forward will be reported in part four of this coverage.
Background: After research initiatives on the effectiveness of abortion-inducing tablets for women who are at least 12 weeks pregnant failed to take off in the U.S., a research organization based in the same country decided, a couple of years ago, to cross several borders to the West African country of Burkina Faso to conduct the study, testing chemical abortion on women with limited resources, ACI Africa has established.
Church leaders who spoke to ACI Africa in reference to the abortion tests condemned the process terming it as regrettable, a serious sin for Christians who take part in it, and a form of dictatorship which the church is prepared to fight.
The President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Philippe Cardinal Ouedraogo, said the abortion project was part of a scheme of “dictatorship” that the Church on the continent needed to defend itself against.
“For me it is a real dictatorship. The dictatorship of human thought … The dictatorship of one-track thinking; and we will defend ourselves even if we are weak,” said Cardinal Ouedraogo who heads the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
The nearly 75-year-old Burkinabe Prelate added, “We are not going to let ourselves be carried away by this ideological course of dictatorship, the dictatorship of the single thought.”
The Cardinal’s sentiments were echoed by his compatriot, Bishop Prosper Kontiebo of Tenkodogo Diocese who decried abortion as “a pity and a form of slavery that needs to be opposed.”
“It is a pity that we are lagging behind these NGOs that impose a conduct that is not at all Christian,” the Burkinabe Bishop told ACI Africa in an exclusive interview and added, “It is incumbent on us Catholics to oppose all these ideologies and to affirm our identity and to fight against all forms of slavery, against all forms of impositions of conduct or morals that are not in conformity with our Christian faith.”
Meanwhile, explaining the position of the Church concerning abortion, Cardinal Ouedraogo stated that the act was a “voluntary interruption of a human life that has begun” and that it “is a horrible and very serious act.”
“You are well aware of the Church’s position. All life is sacred. Human life is sacred. Man cannot do with it what he wants,” said the Burkinabe Cardinal at the helm of the Symposium of Bishops in Africa, SECAM.
He Cardinal added, “When abortion is voluntary, it is considered a serious act, a crime. The beginning of a human life represents a promise of the future that is irreversibly interrupted. Christian morality therefore disapproves abortion, because all human life must be respected.”
In his considered view, “a Christian who performs abortion as well as accomplices to an abortion commit a serious, deadly sin.”
The Cardinal’s sentiments were echoed by Bishop Justin Kientega who heads the Commission for Health of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burkina Faso and Niger.
“The human person from his natural conception to natural death must not be interfered with by taking his life because we lack elements,” Bishop Kientega argued and added, “the Church says that the human person has all his dignity even if there is a disability somewhere. So, we can’t afford to eliminate her from the selection.”
The Burkinabe Bishop maintained a rigid stance against elimination of unborn children saying, “I cannot accept that position. There is the case of incest and all that. It is the law that voted and we are the ones who wanted this being not to have the right to our society.”
He regretted that legal processes in Burkina Faso do not seem to correspond with the position of the Church.
“It is God who allowed this child to come into the world in this way; we will welcome him and of course help him to integrate into society and not bother to find the solution to eliminate him,” said Bishop Kientega who also serves as President of Caritas Burkina Faso.
He added, “The civil laws do not correspond with an illustration of a vision of the church. We just support it.”
Also spurning attempts of abortion on women which have reportedly gone wrong in several cases, Bishop Dèr Raphaël Kusiélé Dabiré of Burkina Faso’s Diébougou Diocese, said the abortions were “regrettable and are buying into the conscience of the poor and ignorant.”
“It is regrettable, it is reprehensible on the part of organizations that come to buy the conscience of the poor or the ignorant so that they can have an abortion for money reasons, while for them, the reasons they have in mind are different,” said Bishop Kusiélé.
The 71-year old Burkinabe Prelate views the abortion tests as taking advantage of the ignorance of African women since “the girls or women who take part in such acts are sometimes very ignorant of what they are getting into.”
As for Christians who have participated in abortion or aided the process, Cardinal Ouedraogo advised for sincere repentance saying, “A Christian who performs abortion as well as accomplices to an abortion commit a serious, deadly sin. They must humbly ask the Lord for forgiveness before receiving the Eucharist.”
The Burkinabe Cardinal added, “For the Christians, human life is ultimately a gift from God to be welcomed and respected, especially because it is the most fragile, the most innocent beings we can imagine.”
Part four, which sums up this report, will have Church leaders provide a way forward with regard to their take on abortion tests on African women in Burkina Faso, after the tests failed to take off in the U.S.