Abbott says attacks are sectaian

Health Minister Tony Abbott has accused his critics in the debate over the availability of the abortion drug RU486 of a "new sectarianism" and undermining ministerial responsibility.

The Australian reports that as the Senate began a debate to strip the Health Minister of responsibility for controlling the release of abortion-inducing drugs, Mr Abbott said the push on the issue was being made because he was a Catholic.

"The last time this kind of sectarianism and alleged inability of a minister to carry out their duty in the national interest was in 1916 at the time of the conscription debate," Mr Abbott told The Australian. "I thought we had moved on from there.

"This is an illustration of a new sectarianism where somebody is considered incapable of making an objective decision because they hold ethical, philosophical or religious views."

Mr Abbott has campaigned publicly to reduce the number of abortions in the country and urged greater action to stop terminations.

He has publicly addressed the personal tension he faces as a Catholic and a health minister who administers a system where abortion is legal and funded by Medicare.

As a prominent Catholic Mr Abbott has been accused of wanting to keep RU486 out of Australia based on his personal and religious values. Yesterday he said no decision he made as minister would be taken without expert advice or justification.

"There seems to be some suggestion that somehow I would have secret consultations with Cardinal Pell," he said. "The Treasurer makes decisions on overseas investment of billions of dollars in the national interest and the Immigration Minister makes decisions on visas all the time and those decisions are made by the ministers based on advice," he said.

Mr Abbott said it is important for ministers to retain responsibility for decision-making because they were accountable to the community for those decisions.

He also again appealed for both sides of the RU486 debate to keep to the facts.

Attack on me is sectarian: Abbott (The Australian 9/2/06)

Bishop Fisher says RU406 won't curb abortions (CathNews 7/2/06)
Catholic GPs ready to quit over RU-486 (CathNews 3/2/06)
Life Office criticises advertiser's gag on abortion debate (CathNews 1/2/06)
Churches lead RU406 protest (CathNews 30/1/06)
Day of action to fight abortion drug move (CathNes 27/1/06)
Melbourne Archbishop says maintain abortion drug ban (CathNews 25/1/06)
Pope says 'no' to gay marriage, abortion pill (CathNews 13/1/06)
Catholic Health to address abortion pill inquiry (CathNews 15/12/06)

Abortion pill debate not determined by Catholicism: Abbott (ABC Radio AM 8/2/06)
PM hints at opposing RU486 Bill (Herald-Sun 9/2/06)
Churches ramp up pressure to retain ban on pill (Sydney Morning Herald 9/2/06)
PM Howard won't support RU486 bill (The Age 8/2/06)
RU486 powers defended (The Courier Mail 8/2/06)

9 Feb 2006