Pro-life groups have joined forces with the Catholic Church to fight a controversial sterilization program introduced by Peru’s Ministry of Health.

The program would offer sterilization for people living in poverty and would provide economic benefits for those volunteering for the surgery.

As reported by the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN), the program was immediately attacked by the head of the Peruvian Catholic bishops’ commission on the family.

“(The program) violates our people’s freedom,” said Bishop Alberto Brazzini. “The government program is unjust and exploitative as authorities manipulate the needy by buying their consciousness with material rewards, and making them accept the risk of being mutilated for the rest of their lives.”

The sterilization program, called AQV, was initiated as an “emergency campaign” aimed at impoverished citizens.

Under the program, a woman who agrees to sterilization can obtain 35 pounds of basic goods, including food items. Doctors performing the sterilization procedures are given incentives as well. These include free airline tickets and cash payments.

The head of the bishops’ social communications commission called the program “a dangerous campaign.”

Archbishop Miguel Irizar such the program reveals a lack of respect for the needy and is in direct conflict with the ethical principles which should predominate.

“Instead of giving money or food to our poor people for being mutilated in order to reduce the population, government authorities should work hard to find the real solutions for the social and economic problems of our country,” Bishop Irizar said.

Doctors opposed

The country’s Catholic bishops are not the only ones critical of the program. Dr. Francisco Sanchez-Moreno Ramos of the Peruvian Medical Association, said the program works against individual liberty. Although he personally supports contraceptive measures, Dr. Sanchez-Moreno Ramos said the sterilization scheme violates medical ethics

“It is wrong to support a program which will leave poor and needy people sterilized for the rest of their lives. I do not share the idea of buying their sterilization with a bag of food,” the doctor said.

Despite objections from church and medical leaders, the program has already been tested in some regions of Peru. It may be extended to other areas, although government officials are beginning to feel pressure to scale it down.

Legislators have begun to distance themselves from the program, leaving it to the Ministry of Health to provide analysis and justification for its continuation.

Meanwhile, Peru’s President Alberto Fujimori has backed away from the program.