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Date: Fri, 16 May 97 19:25:25 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: El Salvador: Proceso: The Pro-life demagogues

/** reg.elsalvador: 35.0 **/
** Topic: Proceso 755: 30 April 97 ** ** Written 7:33 AM May 11, 1997 by in cdp:reg.elsalvador **
From: CIDAI/UCA El Salvador <>

Center for Information, Documentation and Research Support (CIDAI) Central American University (UCA)
San Salvador, El Salvador
Apdo. Postal (01)575, San Salvador, El Salvador
Tel: +503-273-4400 ext. 266 Fax: +503-273-5000

Pro-life demagogues

Processo editorial, No.755, 30 April 1997

We have always been in favor of life, among other things, because we know about death, particularly about the murder of innocents; but that does not mean that we must accept the pro-life demagogues, who have come to the fore in the heat of the debate about the abortion statute in the Penal Code. They are demagogues because they are not in favor of life, because they have no moral standing to defend it, and because their interests are eminently electoral.

The non-criminalization of abortion in cases of rape, for therapeutic reasons, for birth defects and if there exist threats to the mother's psychological and physical health, was proposed in the draft Penal Code, presented to the legislature by the Ministry of Justice, in the name of the President of the Republic. Thus, only President Calderon is directly responsible for the statute on abortion in this draft bill. This is the same President Calderon who, on previous occasions, has spoken out as pro-life. If there were ethical and religious reasons for rejecting this statute, the executive branch should have corrected the bill before introducing it into the legislature.

The hot protests from the Minister of Health are senseless, because he should have vented them just as vehemently in the cabinet meeting room, or was he perhaps ignorant of such an important bill as the Penal Code? The postures taken by ARENA deputies are just as incongruent as those of its honorary president, since he made the proposal as head of the executive branch. The party leadership probably failed to worry about the ethical implications of its government's policies. It is glaringly obvious that in economic and social policy, they do not defend life as ardently.

It is true that the abortion proposal, just like the rest of the Penal Code, was drawn up by foreign experts, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars from USAID; but the Ministry of Justice, acting in the name of the President of the Republic, adopted it as his own as presented it as an initiative from the executive branch. It would not be surprising to find out that there are pressures from the U.S. to impose a certain kind of Penal Code, since it is footing the bill, but we suppose the Ministry of Justice has the capacity to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate for the nation's judicial system. Cooperation by foreign experts, particularly from the United States, could well be part of the process of opening up in which the present government has launched itself.

Those who today claim they are defending life from the moment of conception, and who claim to be committed to life, are the same who just recently passed the reinstatement of the death penalty, for one. They will have to desist in their efforts in light of the electoral results, because the votes are just not there for ratification of the amendment in the present legislature. One cannot say "yes to life," promoting it from the moment of conception, but taking it away with the death penalty. If life is an absolute value from its very beginnings, so is it at the end. Those who today wave the pro-life banner are the same ones who were implicated in all the U.N. reports about the organization and financing of the death squads. They are the same ones who defended and covered up for the forced disappearances of thousands of Salvadorans. The ones who defended bombings and massacres, in which thousands of children, women and elderly died. They are the same ones who are linked to the murders of Mons. Romero and the Jesuits of the UCA. Thus, ARENA lacks the historical and moral solvency necessary to defend life, at least as long as it fails to offer a public confession of its murders and ask for forgiveness.

On the personal level, the biographies of those who appear today as staunch defenders of life are also not all that exemplary. They claim to defend life from the moment of conception, but once the child is born, they do not become responsible parents, they ignore the thousands of children who fill city streets, they hypocritically cry out about child prostitution, they turn a blind eye to child trafficking and child drug abuse, they overlook the abandonment of thousands of Salvadoran men and women in homes for the elderly, as well as the miserable pension checks from Social Security.

ARENA's posture on abortion cannot be qualified as anything but demagogy. The party has taken up this banner because it has discovered its mobilizing possibilities -especially among middle and upper classes, and students at Catholic secondary schools- and not because of its convictions about life or because it has defended life when the innocent victims could be counted in the tens of thousands. Nor has ARENA actively prosecuted clandestine abortion, despite having the power to do so, perhaps because it feels that a certain degree of tolerance is convenient, but above all because it fears disturbing the economic interests of those who benefit from that illegal activity. Thus, ARENA has no idea about the number of women who are admitted to hospital emergency rooms with their reproductive organs destroyed by amateur abortionists.

Nor does the party have even a shred of shame in trying to conceal the fact that its interest in this controversy is only electoral. If it had better calculated the mobilizing potential of the issue, and if its own pre-electoral surveys had accurately reflected public opinion, ARENA would have undoubtedly introduced the issue into the electoral campaign, as it did with other equally important issues such as the truth about the war and its victims, whom it mocked and ridiculed. In terms of demagogy about life, this party is truly a promoter of death.

Centro de Informacion, Documentacion y Apoyo a la Investigacion de la Universidad Centroamericana "Jose Simeon Can~as" (CIDAI-UCA)
Apdo. Postal 01-575
San Salvador, El Salvador
Tel: +503-273-4400
Fax: +503-273-5000