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Deputy PM and Anglican Primate fuel anti-abortion campaign

Acting Prime Minister John Anderson has backed an anti-abortion push to debate late-term terminations and consider changes designed to force doctors to provide more accurate statistics.

Despite senior Coalition MPs warning of strong opposition to any changes to the law, the Nationals leader said last night he remained deeply concerned over late-term abortions and the lack of accurate information.

Options to reform tax and welfare laws to provide pregnant women with more support to carry a fetus to term were also raised by pro-choice Liberal MP and Human Services Minister Joe Hockey.

Labor MP John Murphy confirmed he would introduce a private member's bill, to end a "conspiracy of silence" over abortion, that might include changing the Medicare item number to ensure all abortions were clearly recorded and statistics publicly available. There are believed to be about 70,000 abortions performed nationally each year.

Currently, the item number or code used by doctors to refer to an abortion when billing Medicare also applies to procedures carried out after a miscarriage or inducing labour when a fetus dies in the womb.

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Anderson said he held strong views on abortion but remained concerned that the debate could degenerate into a divisive and emotional clash between anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates.

"One aspect that particular concerns me is late-term abortions," he said. "At what point do we say a fetus takes on a life of its own? In a society like ours, legislation should reflect as closely as it can the will of the people."

Asked whether he would support Mr Murphy's push to introduce changes to Medicare to ensure abortions were accurately recorded to improve statistics, he replied: "That could be helpful. There is a need for a clearer picture on what it is we are debating."

Meanwhile the head of the Anglican church in Australia, Archbishop Peter Carnley, says he will support moves to make it harder to terminate a pregnancy.
He also backed political involvement in the debate.

He said all political leaders should be involved in the abortion debate.

"I think it (the abortion debate) is going to continually resurface until it's resolved because I think it's an unresolved problem," he told ABC radio. "And I think people generally are really concerned and it simply will keep coming back."

"This is really a scientific question before it's a religious or moral question.

"And I think it's very clear that for scientific reasons, it's very clear that from the moment of conception ... we're dealing with an independent human individual and every human individual has a right to life and protection."

Backing political involvement in the debate, Dr Carnley said: "I don't think it's just a sort of theoretical debate amongst religious people, I think it really affects those involved in politics," he said.

Deputy PM fuels abortion campaign (The Australian 3/2/05)
Church leader [Anglican Primate Archbishop Peter Carnley] praises abortion debate ( 2/2/05)

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)

Abortion debate divides Liberals (Daily Telegraph 3/2/05)
[Opposition Leader Kim Beazley:] Abortion debate 'not a concern' for women (Townsville Bulletin 2/2/05)
Frances Kissling on abortion (ABC Religion Report 2/2/05)
Brendan Nelson comes out in support of abortion (ABC Radio The World Today 2/2/05)
Miranda Devine: Abortion debate takes on a new life of its own (Sydney Morning Herald 3/2/05)
Backyard abortion fears as debate intensifies (Sydney Morning Herald 3/2/05)
Push against abortions puts women at risk (The Australian 3/2/05)

3 Feb 2005