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Abbott backs new anti-abortion lobby

Health Minister Tony Abbott has backed a new coalition of political and religious leaders demanding restrictions on late-term abortions and greater transparency on the number of terminations.

The Australian reports that the new forum was attended by Coalition and Labor MPs and Family First senator-elect Steve Fielding in Sydney last night. They discussed options to restrict late-term abortions to public hospitals and demand mandatory counselling for women seeking a termination.

Mr Abbott, a Catholic, was also asked by an anti-abortion Coalition senator to provide parliament with an estimate of the cost of offering all women seeking an abortion a free ultrasound of the fetus. His outspoken criticism of the number of abortions in Australia, and his canvassing of measures to reduce terminations, sparked fiery debate in cabinet last year.

While Mr Abbott did not attend last night's meeting, he sent a message of support, saying: "If possible, we should move beyond the old pro-life, pro-choice debate to enable women to do their best on behalf of their children."

Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Islamic, Lutheran, Mormon, Sikh, Salvation Army, Wesleyan and Seventh Day Adventist churches were all represented at the meeting.

The meeting included two bishops representing Cardinal George Pell and Sydney Anglican Archbishop Dr Peter Jensen, as well as Rabbi Raymond Apple, Dr Sheik Mansour Leghael of the Imam Hussein Islamic Centre, and a representative of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Stylianos.

Attendees at the forum were expected to include independent senator Brian Harradine, Liberal Party MP Alan Cadman, Labor MP John Murphy Nationals senator Julian McGauran and the Christian Democratic Party's Fred Nile.

Nationals senator Ron Boswell, who attended the meeting, tabled a series of parliamentary questions yesterday designed to force the Howard Government to release more information on abortion. The newly-elected Catholic senator for the Nationals, Barnaby Joyce, who will commence his term mid-year, also sparked debate over whether Medicare should fund all abortions, despite Treasurer Peter Costello's warning that laws regarding terminations remained a matter for the states.

Controversy also erupted over the true number of abortions in Australia and whether the Medicare number referred only to terminations or included procedures after a miscarriage.

At the meeting, the inter-faith committee pledged to pressure state governments to compile accurate statistics on abortion. Only South Australia keeps abortion statistics.

It was also agreed to create a fund for research into the physical and psychological consequences of abortion.

Abbott backs new anti-abortion lobby (The Australian 1/2/05)
United front on abortion (The Herald-Sun 1/2/05)
Abortion lobby wins over MPs (The Australian 1/2/05)

Life Office, Archdiocese of Sydney
Respect Life Office, Archdiocese of Melbourne
Tony Abbott MHR

Meeting of Bishops' taskforce on pastoral responses to abortion (CathNews 24/12/04)
Bishops propose abortion alternatives (CathNews 26/11/04)
Persecution today for 'mad monk' Abbott (CathNews 10/12/04)
Melbourne Archbishop welcomes abortion debate (CathNews 10/11/04)
Liberals say Abbott will pay for commitment to faith before politics (CathNews 8/11/04)
Catholic politician [Barnaby Joyce] completes Howard's Senate majority (CathNews 29/10/04)

Boswell presses Abbott on abortion figures (ABC News 1/2/05)
Senator pursues abortion debate (The Advertiser 1/2/05)

32 Feb 2005