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Public servant defends funding for Church pregnancy advice

A Federal Health Department official has said the Catholic Church received $918,000 public funding for pregnancy counselling services because they provide "a different kind of service... advice on natural family planning."

The Sydney Morning Herald/AAP reports that assistant secretary Andrew Stuart of the Department of Health and Ageing was facing a Senate estimates committee hearing, in the midst of ongoing fiery political debate over whether access to abortions should be restricted.

Mr Stuart was asked to explain why the funding provided to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference was eight times higher than that provided to the secular, non-directive immigrant women's health counselling and referral service Working Women's Health.

"It provides a different kind of service. It provides a service of advice on natural family planning," he said. "Alternatives such as the Billings ovulation method and the sympto-thermal method."

Both methods teach women and their partners to avoid pregnancy by timing intercourse for non-fertile stages in their menstrual cycle.

As well, Mr Stuart said the government gave $245,580 to the Australian Federation of Pregnancy Support Services (AFPSS). The AFPSS counts several right-to-life organisations as members, but a federation spokeswoman said it is committed to non-directional pregnancy counselling.

Funds were provided for counselling services from a number of different philosophies, Mr Stuart said. "The Commonwealth funds a range of services, whether you see them as comparable or not I think would be a matter for you to consider."

Nearly $1m grant for counselling service (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP 17/2/05)

Department of Health and Ageing
Senate Estimates
Australian Federation of Pregnancy Support Services
Australian Council of Natural Family Planning
Billings Method
Pregnancy Support Agencies: Their History, Purpose and Philosophy (Right to Life ACT)

Bishops welcome PM's commitment on abortion debate (CathNews 10/2/05)
Deputy PM and Anglican Primate fuel anti-abortion campaign (CathNews 3/2/05)
Top theologian urges reflective calm in abortion debate (CathNews 2/2/05)
Abbott backs new anti-abortion lobby (CathNews 1/2/05)
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)

Vatican Cardinal Ends Debate: No Communion for Pro-Abortion Politicians or Rainbow Sashers (LifeSite 16/2/05)
Bishops welcome debate (Catholic Leader 20/2/05)
Poll backs abortion laws (The Age 16/2/05)
Dems launch abortion law petition (The Age 13/2/05)
Church plan to cut abortion rate ( 10/2/05)
Dennis Glover: Howard's secret abortion agenda (The Age 11/2/05)
A pregnant Virgin Mary (Catholic Leader 20/2/05)

18 Feb 2005