The UN news information service, IRIN, reported in mid-March that one NGO in particular was central in the push to loosen East Timor's strongly pro-life abortion laws, Lifesite News reports.
The NGO is called Fokupers, or the "Communication Forum for Women from the East", which is listed as one of Development and Peace's partners in its 2006-2011 Asia Program.
According to IRIN, "A working group convened by Fokupers ... a local NGO supported by others such as the Alola Foundation, has been pushing for a softening of abortion laws."
Maria Barreto, program manager for advocacy at Fokupers, told IRIN that, "Abortion is one of the options that is appropriate when the mothers are victims of sexual violence. We are working to protect women. We should understand that we should give options to mothers based on their circumstances."
IRIN also reported the push to legalise abortion by Fokupers was creating a firestorm of controversy in the Catholic country. The Catholic bishops from the Dili and Baucau dioceses reportedly wrote in early March to the Timor-Leste Council of Ministers, the council responsible for making the country's laws, urging them to keep abortion illegal in all circumstances.
LifeSiteNews says that Fokupers had also previously been a "partner" of the US Caritas organisation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS). A representative at CRS confirmed that CRS had ended its relationship with the NGO five years ago, before it began its pro-abortion activities, and that their partnership with Fokupers had only been a year long.
The CRS representative also communicated with CRS's contacts on the ground in East Timor, who confirmed that Fokupers is indeed currently helping spearhead the lobbying effort to legalise abortion in the country, and that the East Timorese bishops have strongly spoken out against the pro-abortion efforts.
The CRS representative told LSN that if Fokupers had been found to be supporting abortion in any way while they were a CRS partner, CRS would have severed the relationship. "We would not fund any [abortion] advocacy organisation," said CRS media spokesman Tom Price, who explained that official CRS policy "with organisations that carry out activities counter to Church teaching is that we would not partner or fund them," even if they are involved in other commendable projects.
"We do not just follow Church teachings, we embrace them," he said.