Church concern about Howard backdown on abortion drug ban

Catholic Health Australia CEO Francis Sullivan has voiced concern following the decision of Prime Minister John Howard to allow a cabinet rethink of Australia's ban on the abortion drug RU486.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the renewed pressure on the Government comes amid claims that cost and delays of surgical abortions are hitting women in country areas.

Mr Sullivan told the Herald that many Catholics would be concerned that the initial rhetoric from the Government about protecting the dignity of human life was coming under pressure.

The paper says that in a move that further complicates the push by the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, to reduce the number of abortions in Australia, Mr Howard yesterday said federal cabinet would review the ban on the import of the drug, which can induce abortions up to nine weeks after conception.

Mr Howard's move follows a call by the Liberal MP Sharman Stone for the ban on RU486 to be dumped, citing the plight of women in her country Victorian electorate who had difficulties arranging abortions.

The pressure from within the Liberal Party to relax the ban comes as the Government is already juggling other reproductive issues of concern to the Catholic Church, including the possible further relaxation of curbs on embryonic stem cell research and measures to rein in the number of abortions in Australia.

But Mr Abbott said yesterday there were no plans before the Government to relax the import ban on RU486 but he would listen to any case for change.

While the ban has remained since 1996, the Federal Government has permitted the use of the morning-after pill, effective for about 48 hours after conception.

Catholic Health's Francis Sullivan also rejected Mr Howard's statement this week that there was no single Catholic position on issues like workforce reform.

The Church had "a huge tradition" of concern on workplace issues and on issues like the use of embryos for stem cell experiments and RU486, there were broad Catholic concerns, Mr Sullivan said.

Abortion drug on a rethink (Sydney Morning Herald 14/10/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Health Australia

Church mentors to stop abortion (CathNews 4/10/05)

No communion for pro-abortion political leaders, Synod told (AsiaNews.it 7/10/05)
Cardinal: It's not automatic sin to vote for pro-abortion candidate (Catholic News Service 6/10/05)
Catholic politician cannot support abortion, prelate says (Catholic World News 5/10/05)

14 Oct 2005