As controversy surrounds reform of Spain's abortion law, the newly-elected president of the local bishops' conference says Catholics must both oppose the procedure and support pregnant women. “We need to understand that it is very difficult for many pregnant women — for reasons we can all come to understand — to carry their babies to term,” said Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid. “We need to be close to them and help them, not simply say 'no to abortion,' which we should always say, but also say to them, 'Let’s see, what can we do, how can we help,'” he told CNA during his ad limina visit to Rome with the Spanish bishops. “I am happy that there are institutions of the Church that serve these women. Several institutions in my diocese come to mind that are doing immense good,” he said, reaching out to women who are suffering so that “they will not have even more suffering later if they suppress the life of their child.” The archbishop's remarks come as a new bill in Spain aims to re-establish limits on abortion and assert the state's right to protect unborn children. It seeks to address what many have seen as an overreach by a 2010 law passed by the Socialists. The 2010 law allowed for abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy if there was a “serious risk to the life or health of the mother or the fetus.” However, critics have argued that the law was unregulated, in practice creating a situation where abortion-on-demand was allowed for any reason during this time. The proposed bill would tighten these regulations. It would continue to allow for abortion at different stages throughout pregnancy, but only for certain reasons, including rape, terminal deformity and the physical or mental well-being of the mother, confirmed by medical professionals. The bill also reinforces a state interest in protecting unborn life, as well as doctors’ conscience rights to refuse to participate in an abortion. Archbishop Blazquez said society needs to be reminded that “neither the mother, nor the father, and neither doctors nor those in authority have the authority to suppress the life of a human being.” “As Christians we want to defend life and we defend it from the mother’s womb…As human beings we are always on a journey, and nobody has the authority to suppress the life of a human being, a human being that is moreover defenseless and is absolutely dependent on others in everything in order to survive.” “We must care for them!” he said. In addition, “science clearly and unanimously tells us that from the moment of conception, a unique being exists, who is a human being.” Archbishop Blazquez was elected as president of the Spanish bishops on March 12 for the three year term of 2014-2017. He succeeds Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, who led the bishops for twelve years. The archbishop had been vice president of the conference for the previous three terms. He was first elected on March 4, 2008, and was reelected on March 1, 2011.
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