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LUJÁN, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - Argentine bishops marked International Women's Day with a massive pro-life Mass, even as government leaders work to legalize abortion.
Argentina, one of the holdouts in the Western world from joining the international Culture of Death, may soon overturn its pro-life protections, with President Alberto Fernández pledging to submit an abortion legalization bill to Congress. Currently, Argentine law allows killing preborn children only in cases when the mother's life or health is in danger, or in cases of rape.
Though the pontiff has yet to make a public statement on the abortion threat, Argentina's prelates are fighting back. On March 8, the bishops organized a Mass — with the theme "Yes to Women, Yes to Life" — at the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján to pray and offer sacrifice for the defeat of the bill. The main celebrant was Bp. Óscar Vicente Ojea Quintana of San Isidro, president of the Argentine bishops' conference. Pro-life group the Más Vida Foundation estimated more than 100,000 people attended the special Mass.
Bishop Ojea said in his homily that "in this Eucharist, we have come to celebrate and express our gratitude for the lives of so many women united in the sentiment of so many people in the world on this International Women's Day."
"We value your irreplaceable presence in families and we celebrate the increasingly greater place you have in our society," he continued, adding that all have come to Luján to "pray for all women so their lives, their safety and their rights are respected, overcoming every kind of exclusion."
Then the bishop began to focus more specifically on the crucial problem. "But in a special way, we want to celebrate and appreciate women's closeness and commitment to life," he said, and especially those "intelligent and brave women who commit their lives day after day [to] that life that sometimes makes its presence known with an unplanned pregnancy, which perhaps doesn't come at the best time, but they are completely committed to care for this new being they have received."
After reminding people that all conceived children are a gift from God rather than a "mistake," the bishop underscored that "there are millions of Argentine men and women, believers and non-believers" who "have the profound conviction that there is life from conception and that a different person than the mother is developing in her womb."
Then the bishop, as if directing his words to the Argentine government as well as all people of goodwill, said that, "In reality, we value and defend the rights of each and every life, of every woman and every unborn child." He stressed that "It's not right to eliminate any human life, as our National Constitution affirms," he said, adding that "violence and death are the exact opposite of Jesus' plan."
The bishop defended the inestimable value of every human being at any stage of maturity and inalienable right to life, without which no other rights and goods are possible. "Life is the first right and without it no others can be given," he proclaimed. "We claim it for everyone at any age or in any situation that life finds itself in, and especially those who are weak, unprotected and defenseless," he insisted.
Being consistent that love and protection must extend to both women and children, Bp. Ojea defended the legitimate rights of women and those who often find themselves on the outskirts of society. He said that the members of the Church "wholeheartedly deplore the cruelty of femicide and every kind of violence and discrimination against women ... abuse in all its forms whether sexual, psychological or the abuse of power, whatever the environment where it occurs — the family, work, school, the street and painfully we must also say in the Church."
Alluding to the word of God (Genesis 1:26–27), the bishop called for "policies that recognize the equal dignity of men and women in society" and expressed support for public policies that would assist pregnant women, especially those in crisis situations where there is conflict or extreme vulnerability, and noted "we're already doing it in a lot of our communities."