Kerala: Catholic church observes anniversary of MTP Act as black day
The Catholic church is observing Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of the implementation of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act in India, as a black day.
The family commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC), an apex body of Christians, asked believers to observe the day as “Day of Protection of Life”, ring bells in churches and conduct special prayers for terminated foetuses. The KCBC has asked all 32 dioceses in the state to protest against the MTP Act and uphold pro-life activities.
The MTP Act was introduced in the country in 1971, allowing termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners--as long as the length of pregnancy did not exceed 20 weeks. If so, special permission is required from a competent court. The church has been opposing all types of abortions saying human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception. In 2020, Pope Francis had exhorted believers to observe 2020-21 as the Year of Family.
The church was in the news two weeks ago after it announced a series of incentives for followers to have more children as part of the Year of the Family celebrations. It said the move was also aimed to check a fall in the Catholic population in the state, but it comes at a time when the country is debating whether population needs to be controlled by dis-incentivising couples with more than two children. Many states have introduced special laws to curb population explosion.
But the KCBC justified its decision and expressed grave concern over the low birth rate among believers. It said in 1950, Christians formed 24.6% of Kerala’s population and in 2011, the number fell to 17.2%. It fears that in the next census there will be a dip of 2 to 4%. It said the community has the lowest birth rate (among communities in the country) of 1.8% and if the situation continued like this, the very existence of the community will be in danger. Kerala is the largest Christian-populated state in the country, followed by Nagaland.
“It is not logical to consider population reduction as the only solution for social crises arising out of improper developmental policies,” said the KCBC in a statement, citing China’s recent stance. It said countries such as China are forced to rethink its policies due to ill-effects of rampant population control. It also justified the decision announced by many dioceses like Pala, Idukki and Thamarasserry to reward families who have four or more children. Pastoral letters were read in many churches in the state two weeks ago reminding believers about their “family duty and obligation”.
“Drastic fall in birth is a serious concern. There are many policies to support families that receive more children. We have to formulate more such plans to encourage family life,” said Father Paul Simenthy, secretary of the KCBC family commission.
Pala diocese in Kottayam was the first, last week, to announce ₹1500 monthly assistance for couples married after the year 2000, who have four or more children. The church also offered free education and medical care for siblings and parents, relying on its control of several educational institutions and hospitals in the state. Later many dioceses followed suit.