This is the final part of a four-part series that ACI Africa has been running since December last year to detail activities by a U.S.-based research company testing drug-induced, second-trimester abortion that women in the U.S. do not want. This part provides a way forward and advice to vulnerable Burkinabe women who are likely to fall victim of the controversial tests as highlighted in parts one, two and three of the series where we described the contexts of the abortion tests , the leaders’ general take as well as condemnation of the drug-induced abortion that church leaders described as regrettable, a serious sin for Christians who take part in it, and “a dictatorship of human thought which the church is prepared to fight.”
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 established.
Church leaders that spoke to ACI Africa have highlighted the need of educating women on the dangers of abortion considering what they term as the lack of a legal framework around abortion in Burkina Faso.
Bishop Bishop Dèr Raphaël Kusiélé Dabiré of Burkina Faso’s Diébougou Diocese termed the fight against the abortion trials a difficult matter, likening it to a “David-Goliath” fight which he said could be won through education and coherent communication on the dangers of abortion.
“It is a difficult fight. But the image of David and Goliath is illustrative,” said Bishop Kusiélé adding, “All these evils are Goliath and David is the Universal Church, the Church of Africa, the dioceses, the basic Christian communities and guided at each level by its pastor. We shall triumph over Goliath. So, I think education remains the key solution to solving this problem at all levels.”
The 71-year-old Burkinabe Prelate highlighted the importance of education and that the young people need to uphold chastity saying, “We can help them (young people) understand that we can love each other without having sex. Especially if love is real, the male partner in general will find the strength to wait for marriage if that is his goal. Thousands of young couples can testify to this.”
Bishop Justin Kientega, Episcopal Chair for Health and Bishop of Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso says the Catholic Church in the West African country is already in the process of drafting a document that will give in detail, issues surrounding the abortion trials in the country as well as to chart ways of preventing the spread of the vice.
“We have prepared a document that will be released shortly on this subject (testing drug-induced, second-trimester abortion) … We are preparing something to deal with several themes at once,” said Bishop Kientega and added in reference to the body that brings together the Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso and Niger, “At the Conference level, we looked at it.”
The Burkinabe cleric highlighted the active participation of Christians with members of different organized groups who have demonstrated willingness to contribute to the legislation process.
“There are Catholic associations that have come forward, for example, Catholic pharmacists who have prepared a document submitting their legislation. We’ll take a look at it and then we’ll publish it,” he said.
Bishop Kientega who doubles up as President of Caritas in the West African country said the Church was ready to welcome government officials who wished to join the fight against the abortion tests saying, “The faithful have been waiting for a long time for a minister or government official who will be courageous enough to say no to these ideologies of encouraging abortions. If it goes that way, it’ll be a good thing for our country, for even though a lot is expected of the Church, much is expected of the state. “
Recognizing that the Church in Africa did not yet have “enough structures for ethical reflection” to guide the masses on the issue related to abortion, the Bishop highlighted the need to establish ethics committees, which he said would enlighten the faithful on family issues.
The ethics committees, according to the Prelate, will be formed at the national and diocesan levels. It is at the parishes that, Bishop Kientega said, the ethics committees would have the most impact.
“Committees and pharmacists, doctors and health personnel are in the parishes,” he said and added, “If we organize them well so that they tell the truth to people and enlighten them, I think we can have some small successes so that people can live their Christian lives properly.
According to Philippe Cardinal Ouedraogo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), “Equally important is the role of Christians who the Clergy have called upon to practice responsible parenthood, to respect sanctity of life and to “resist foreign ideologies even when given money.
“We really need to work to make everyone realize that the solutions are not in abortion,” said Cardinal Ouedraogo who heads the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
Sentiments of the 75-year-old Burkinabe Prelate were echoed by Bishop Prosper Kontiebo of Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso who emphasized that there was no situation to justify abortion.
“Safe abortion as it is said in Burkina Faso in cases of sexual assault, rape, and incest is not absolution to the problem. We must lay emphasis on the psychological counselling of such cases so as to avoid stigmatization and shame as it is the case here,” said Bishop Kontiebo.
He added, “We must intensify sensitization in order for the Christians to see the need to defend life and eradicate abortion, artificial contraceptives and all abuses against the dignity of the human person.”
Burkinabe Cardinal Ouedraogo said the country had more pressing matters to address and thus it didn’t have time to waste on encouraging girls to have abortion.
“Our country is facing high levels of poverty and unemployment because of bad governance. These are the issues we should look into critically and provide solutions and not encouraging young girls to eliminate unborn children because of malformation,” the Cardinal said.
He warned women against falling for material gifts in exchange for their innocence. “Our mission as a Church in Burkina Faso is to sensitize our people not to accept ideas they don’t well about simply because they are given some money,” he said, adding that the Church had already embarked on educating young people on responsible parenthood.
The role of the Church leaders in the West African country will entail providing discernment and psychological counseling for people contemplating abortion, according to Bishop Euzébius Chinekezy Ogbonna from Gabon.
Bishop Chinekezy says the focus will also be on policy makers who approve processes that are potentially harmful to the masses.
“I believe that it is up to us to educate our populations to opt for the truth, to opt for the Gospel, and also to educate our leaders to opt for the good of our populations and not to let themselves be monopolized by the economic powers of foreign countries that impose their culture on us,” Bishop Chinekezy said, reiterating the message of Cardinal Ouedraogo who warns women against taking money to participate in abortion trials.
Bishop Chinekezy added, “We must return to the grassroots with a firm desire to educate our conscience and to want to discover the advantages of natural methods in order to enjoy the goods they provide us.”
“The Bishops are working on this sensitization project and we will deliberate on the details on an action plan in our next session,” Bishop Chinekezy said referencing their meeting that had been planned for January 2020.
Archbishop Emeritus of Ouagadougou recounted his efforts to educate masses on the dangers associated with abortion saying, “I have always tried to give girls an education, so that they can be responsible for their actions.”
And reasserting the Catholic Church’s disapproval of abortion, Archbishop Nicodeme Barrigah of Lome, Togo, said the Church was set to clarify issues surrounding the practice.
“The best thing is to educate yourself to be able to avoid pregnancies. The Church would benefit from addressing this question; from clarifying why it has its reasons that I think many Christians who are not yet able to understand why the Church is reserved will see the reasons and will certainly take a position that will be enlightened by our faith,” said Archbishop Barrigah.