In the Catholic nation of Costa Rica, abortion is strictly prohibited except if the mother is in danger, though an estimated 27,000 women and girls undergo first trimester abortions each year illegally. This Lent and Easter week, the 300 or so priests within the Archdiocese of San Jose have been given the order to pardon anyone who has had an abortion and anyone involved in the procedure such as doctors, nurses, family members and friends.
The amnesty period will go from Feb. 25 to April 29 and was decided upon by the Archbishop Monseñor Hugo Barrantes. This is not the first time the Archdiocese has approved such a policy during this holy period, but it is the first time that they made the announcement to the public.
Typically, the act of abortion can have a person excommunicated from the Catholic Church as it is seen as a break from the way of the Lord, according to the Archdiocese. Only bishops have the power within the church to forgive such an offense to the religious code, though they may also bestow this power to other priests as Barrantes has decided to in this situation.
By allowing these women to practice the act of reconciliation, and thus receive the pardon of God, they hope to strengthen the foundation of the Church. Many of the women who wish to have an abortion in Costa Rica turn to private clinics, illegal abortion pills, or even having the procedure completed on a boat in international waters. The country also has a high rate of teenage pregnancy, and has government programs in place to keep the young mothers in school.
Claire Saylor writes for Costa Rica Pages.