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Buddhist clergy does not approve of but acknowledges social need

“Religions can never condone; but it remains a social requirement,”
– Asgiriya Chapter

The Buddhist clergy, specifically the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Sect, whilst reiterating that they could not condone the taking of a life under any circumstance, however acknowledged the reality that at present a social requirement existed in relation to abortion.

Previously, the medical community, mainly doctors specializing in child health, child morbidity and mortality, family health, gynecologists, maternal health, maternal morbidity and mortality, mental health, obstetricians, and perinatal health, called for the relaxation of the law on abortion to allow for abortions in cases of incest, rape and lethal congenital abnormalities. Legislation with regard to legalizing such in the event of and specific instances of incest, rape and lethal fetal abnormalities is in the pipeline.

Chief Secretary of the Chapter, Dr. Medagama Dhammananda said that particularly in the case of lethal congenital abnormalities, decisions regarding such should be taken by those specialized in medical science, with much responsibility.
Earlier, Member of the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Mangala Dissanayake had informed The Nation that in the case of lethal congenital abnormalities, there would be radiologists, pediatricians and neonatologists involved in the decision making process of deciding that the fetus cannot survive outside the womb, adding that this was not the decision of an individual but of a collective.

Abortion would only be done during the first three months, and only at the express wish of the affected person in question and under specific conditions and would involve a panel of medical professionals deciding on the matter including also judicial officers such as magistrates being involved in the decision making process and the process of granting approval and permission for such cases whilst scrutinizing every aspect. In recognition of the burden on the mental health of women, the current law should be expanded by way of recognizing pro-choice. Post-abortion care should also be provided.

A couple of months back those representing the religions (The Asgiriya Chapter and the Malwatte Chapter of the Siam Sect representing Buddhism, and elsewhere representatives of Islam, Christianity, Catholicism and Hinduism) had met at the Parliament premises along with Minister of Hindu Religious Affairs, D. M. Swaminathan and then Minister of Buddha Sasana, President’s Counsel Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and representatives of non-governmental organizations, at which the said matter had been discussed. According to Dr. Dhammananda, all the religious representatives had been of the view that abortion which involved taking a life should not be allowed except in the instance where the mother’s life was threatened as is allowed under the existing law. The only difference in opinion among the group of religious representatives, with the Muslim representatives holding a different view from those of the other religions, was in relation to the point of conception and pregnancy, and the timeframe involving the zygote, embryo and fetus.
“One must look at victims of incest and rape, especially those who are minors who are still girls, about their mental state, and the situation of babies severely disabled at birth, with empathy and sympathy. In our society, when a minor conceives out of wedlock, they have to suffer humiliation and insults. This societal attitude is wrong. Yet, the State and the Government must in such instances provide for the mother to raise the child in secrecy or for the mother and child to be protected and safeguarded whilst living out in the open or for the child to be put up for adoption,” Dr. Dhammananda further noted.