Monday, April 12, 2010

Pro-life movement gains a foothold in Cuba

Pro-life movement gains a foothold in Cuba
By Victor Gaetan Catholic News Service
Monday, 12 April 2010

Clinical physician Conchita Morales watched the crowd of 200 people
slowly filing out of historic St. Francis of Assisi Church in a
neighborhood of Old Havana and felt a deep sense of accomplishment and

After 15 years, Pro-Vida Cuba (Pro-Life Cuba) had concluded its
first-ever public prayer service. Filled with prayer and inspirational
talks, the event moved Morales and her husband, Hector Gonzalez, a

"We had no idea what to expect," Morales told Catholic News Service
after the March 25 event. "We will be strengthened in this difficult
mission now."

As director of Cuba's only national pro-life organization, Morales has
long called attention to the dangers of abortion in Cuban society in
smaller venues. While the organization has not been prohibited from
meeting, it has done so largely in private.

Until March 25.

Called Dia por la Vida (Day for Life), the gathering included prayer,
eucharistic adoration and Mass. It marked the 15th anniversary of the
organization's founding. The audience included several doctors,
according to organizers.

Nine priests concelebrated the Mass for the pro-life movement, Cuban
families and the unborn.

Father Antonio Rodriguez Diaz, rector at St. Carlos and St. Ambrosio
Seminary, delivered an emotional homily as the eight other priests listened.

"The Catholic Church of Cuba cannot accept abortion or contraceptives
that destroy life," he told the gathering. "If we do not fight for
unborn life, we are not real Christians. It is our role to mobilize, and
teach the truth, on this issue."

Father Rodriguez described an image of Cuba as a street that coincides
with the history of Christianity. That street crosses another street,
"the street of sadness and bitterness" where "one of the greatest
sources of sadness and bitterness is that we have so many abortions," he

Abortion became legal in Cuba in 1965 and is widely available through
the state health system.

The Catholic community, as would be expected, has been a leading voice
against abortion.

"We've held pro-life conferences and information sessions," explained
one seventh-year seminarian from St. Carlos and St. Ambrosio who asked
to remain anonymous. "But we are Christians. We must pray for the unborn
and the health of our country."

Morales explained that abortion is such a common practice in Cuba, that
most women consider it a form of contraception "with no negative
spiritual, ethical or health-related meaning."

"A girl of any age -- we know of even 11-year olds -- can get an
abortion, for free, anytime. Although there are supposedly limits in
terms of the age of the unborn baby, the fact is, in Cuba, you can get
an abortion until the birth of a child. It is horrible," she said.

A young priest, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that
distraught Catholic doctors have approached the church, asking how to
handle the prevalence of abortion, including late-term abortion.

"We tell doctors they must do what we do: Teach the people the truth
that abortion is murder," he said.

A daring tool in the effort to raise awareness came in the form of
dramatic color posters promoting the event that appeared around Havana
for several weeks. A large image of a fully developed fetus, in the womb
sucking her thumb, called people to attend the day of prayer. Hanging
the posters was a risky venture; ads for nonstate gatherings are illegal
under Cuban law.

Although state data is difficult to verify, Cuba is considered to have
one of the highest abortion rates in the world, according to a 2002
study by University of Texas researcher Filipe Eduardo Sixto.

An analysis based on United Nations statistics gathered by researcher
William Robert Johnston concluded there were 66,008 abortions in Cuba in
2007. The study found abortions peaked in 1986 at 160,926. Cuba's
population stands at 11 million.

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