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Catholic Health calls for abortion inquiry

Catholic Health Australia has responded to concerns over the "abortion epidemic" voiced by two federal MPs, calling for an inquiry into the abortion "industry".

The Sydney Morning Herald/AAP reports that Parliamentary secretary for health Christopher Pyne called for a ban on terminations performed after 12 weeks unless there were exceptional circumstances. Health Minister Tony Abbott said he understood his colleague's concerns, considering a quarter of all pregnancies in Australia ended with abortion.

Catholic Health Australia chief executive Francis Sullivan called for the issue to be put on the agenda for the next health ministers' summit.

"The country's health ministers should act with a sense of responsibility to uphold the dignity of every life and place on their agenda the establishment of an inquiry into the abortion industry in Australia," Mr Sullivan said.

Mr Sullivan said that the inquiry's investigation should include, amongst other things, the following:
The commercial and financial arrangements underpinning the practice of abortion in Australia;
The rate of abortion with particular reference to the rate of late term abortions;
The long term impacts for women and men affected through the procurement of abortions;
The role of education, counselling and social support services on the rate of abortion; and
The availability of support and practical options for people to have and adopt children.

He said: "Our compassion as a community needs to be consistent in our attitude to people in distress or difficulty and in our defence of the unborn and vulnerable."

"Not only are abortions too easily accessed, the community has been lulled into a sense of ignorance over the tragedy of late term abortions," he continued. "These days we find the stark irony that neo - natal intensive care units save babies of the same age as are being deliberately aborted through the accommodating legal frameworks in the states and territories."

Health Minister Abbott said that even pro-choice advocates are concerned about the abortion rate, with 25% of all pregnancies ending in terminations in Australia. But he said the government has no plans to change existing policy about the public funding of terminations.

"We have something like 100,000 abortions a year, 25% of all pregnancies end in abortion and even the most determined pro-choice advocates these days seem to be rightly concerned at the way that the abortion epidemic has developed," he said.

Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations spokeswoman Kath Woolf said Medicare funding for late-term abortions needs to be stopped.

"The federal government should work to create a community which better supports women and their children."

Opposition leader Mark Latham said the issue of abortion is one for women and their medical advisers.

"I think we need to accept the right of women to make the choice and we need to respect the medical advice they receive from their doctors," Mr Latham told reporters.

Women's Electoral Lobby spokeswoman Eva Cox said the fact the issue has been raised says more about Mr Abbott, a staunch Catholic, and the rise of the Christian right in Australia than anything else.

"The trouble with Abbott is he thinks he can shove his particular moral viewpoint down the throats of everyone else," Ms Cox said.

Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson said he agrees that too many abortions are carried out each year.

"Many of us think that they (foetuses) are potential fellow Australians and that some people don't think through carefully enough their responsibilities before they fall pregnant, frankly," Mr Anderson told ABC radio.

Church demands abortion inquiry (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 1/11/04)
Place Abortion on Health Ministers Agenda (Catholic Health Australia 1/11/04)

New pro-life agenda (Daily Telegraph 2/11/04)
Abbott and Pyne concerned by abortion rates (ABC Radio The World Today 1/11/04)
Latham enters abortion row (The Age 1/11/04)
Abortion rate worries Abbott (ABC Radio AM 1/11/04)
No plans for change, says Abbott (Townsville Bulletin 1/11/04)
Abbott inflames abortion debate (The Courier Mail 2/11/04)
Abortion out of control, says minister (The Age 2/11/04)
Late terminations a minority, but rising (The Age 2/11/04)
No regrets over aborted foetus (The Age 2/11/04)
Alarm at abortion rate (The Advertiser 2/11/04)
New fight for the unborn (The Australian 2/11/04)
Church demands abortion inquiry (Sydney Morning Herald 1/11/04)
Abbott and Pyne concerned by abortion rates (ABC Radio The World Today 1/11/04)
Abortions not an 'epidemic': Eva Cox (ABC Radio The World Today 1/11/04)

Australian theologian says don't judge pro-abortion politicians (CathNews 27/9/04)
Catholic women more likely to have an abortion (CathNews 6/8/04)
Abbott says abortion film 'will do no harm (CathNews 12/7/04)
Abbott calls Catholics to action over abortion (CathNews 29/4/04)

2 Nov 2004