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Mexican Catholics protest abortion bill

MEXICO CITY – Reciting the rosary and chanting prayers, several thousand abortion opponents summoned by Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church marched through the capital on Sunday to oppose a proposal to legalize the procedure in the first three months of pregnancy.The abortion bill, proposed by the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, is sure to launch a protracted fight between liberal lawmakers and conservative forces in a nation where about 90 percent of people are at least nominally Catholic. Current Mexican law allows abortion only if the woman’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest.Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera led a march of about 25 blocks to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, where he celebrated an afternoon Mass on a balcony overlooking the basilica’s packed main plaza.”We are united here so that they hear our voice, the voice of life,” Rivera, who regularly comments on politics despite a constitutional ban on such activity by clerics, told an applauding crowd.Attending Sunday’s so-called “pilgrimage for life” were extended families, Catholic youth groups and habit-wearing nuns who waved banners and balloons emblazoned with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some wore white to symbolize purity, and recited the rosary as they walked alongside slow-moving pickup trucks equipped with loudspeakers that blasted hymns and prayers. Others carried signs reading “Let’s defend life.”The event coincided with an unrelated march by supporters of former leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has refused to accept his narrow loss to President Felipe Calderon last year and has established a “parallel” government.In an echo of the highly vitriolic election campaign, the abortion debate pits Lopez Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD – which proposed the legalization measure – against Calderon’s conservative National Action Party, or PAN, which opposes it.Lopez Obrador did not broach the subject, however, during his appearance in the capital’s main plaza, the Zocalo. Instead he stuck to establishing policies for his alternative political movement, including opposing privatization of the national oil monopoly Pemex – something he also accuses Calderon of planning, although the president has denied it.Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the Vatican’s top anti-abortion campaigner who was in the capital for the Third International Pro-Life Congress, also appeared to be keeping a low profile Sunday, and was not visibly present at Rivera’s Mass.The Mexican constitution bars foreigners – including Lopez Trujillo and members of U.S. anti-abortion groups currently attending the conference – from political activism. In 2000, authorities barred U.S. and Canadian anti-abortion activists from returning to Mexico for five years after they joined protests in Mexico City’s main square. Such groups were not noticeable at the march either.Mexican law also prohibits political involvement by domestic religious leaders such as Rivera, although that provision has been weakly enforced – especially under the church-friendly PAN. In his sermon Sunday, Rivera said the church’s fight against abortion is not about politics, but about the moral teachings of God.Bills proposed by the PRD in Mexico City’s assembly and the federal Congress would legalize abortion during the first three months of pregnancy.The PRD argues that current Mexican law forces poor women to seek back-street operations, while the wealthy can travel to the United States for the procedure.”We need to stop thousands of women from dying in unsafe operations,” said Sen. Carlos Navarrete, who heads the PRD in the Senate.The measure is expected to pass easily in Mexico City, a federal district with a PRD-dominated legislature that recently approved same-sex civil unions in the capital.But it will face a tougher road at the federal level, where the PAN holds a plurality.”The people are in favor of life,” said Jorge Alberto Serna, 28, an activist for the poor who attended the anti-abortion march. Abortion-legalization proponents “are not listening to the society,” he said.


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