Pell says Australia changing its mind on abortion

As debate over RU486 was about to begin in the House of Representatives, Sydney's Cardinal George Pell said yesterday that public opinion is changing, with 87% support for finding ways to reduce the number of abortions.

Cardinal Pell said that parliamentarians would be required to make a commitment for or against curbing abortion.

"Parliamentarians will not be able to have a foot in each camp. Those who support introducing this pill are not pro-life," he said. "In 1996 members of the newly elected Howard Government and the Beazley led Labor Opposition voted for an amendment to the TGA Act to require Ministerial responsibility and Parliamentary scrutiny of approvals to import and use RU486 for abortions."

Cardinal Pell said that in 1996, it was accepted that RU486 is not the same as other pills because it is destructive, causing abortions even into the second trimester.

"Pills generally are used to heal, are therapeutic," he continued. "Pregnancy is not a disease. Little has changed since 1996 except that the dangers from RU486 are better known."

He said that the Westminster system requires ministerial decision-making and parliamentary supervision. It does not look favourably on the shifting of law-making on important moral issues to courts, much less to an unelected board partly funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

"Majority opinion in Australia, except in the Senate, disapproves of the 80,000 a year government funded abortions in Australia and is looking for ways to reduce this death-toll, not risk increasing it," he said.

Cardinal Pell insisted that the health risks to women of RU486 "cannot be airbrushed out of existence".

"Already significant numbers of women have died after taking the drug. Hundreds in the US have suffered ill effects. RU486 will increase the danger of women suffering home alone miscarriages and will further trivialise the destruction of human lives."

He described the "sectarian anti-Catholic attacks on the Minister for Health [Tony Abbott] by parliamentarians and cartoonists" as "cheap and nasty, revealing a poverty of argumentation and a fear the tide is turning".

"Future generations will look back on today's encouragement of abortion the way we now look at owning slaves. It is a sad irony that the first cross-party alliance of women in parliament should use its power to increase the opportunities for abortion, to attack life, rather than defend it. These senators are out of touch with young women where 60% want to delay the introduction of the drug until there is more information on the health risks.

"Public opinion is moving. The tide is changing in Australia; not as fast as in the United States, but it is changing. 87% of Australians support finding ways to reduce the number of abortions.

"The challenge is to encourage births, to encourage free personal choices for life, to give women the support and resources they need to give birth to their children. This is the role of parliaments and governments."

In conclusion, Cardinal Pell urged Members of the House of Representatives to "use their conscience vote to reflect the conscience of our nation".

Cardinal George Pell: Statement on RU486 (Archdiocese of Sydney)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney | Submission to the inquiry into Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial Responsibility for Approval of RU 486) Bill 2005 (Archdiocese of Sydney - PDF) | Holy Hour for human life (Archdiocese of Sydney)

Catholic groups decry Senate vote (CathNews 10/2/06)
Catholic and Evangelical students join Muslims in RU-486 fight (CathNews 9/2/06)
Abbott says attacks are sectarian (CathNews 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)

Laurie Oakes: You started it, Tony (ninemsn 14/2/06)
Pell attacks RU486 supporters (ABC News 14/2/06)
Abortion bill faces test in Lower House (ABC Radio PM 14/2/06)
Amendments could ruin RU486 bill: backers (Sydney Morning Herald 15/2/06)
Cardinal Pell enters RU486 debate (The Age 15/2/06)
Attacks on Abbott cheap and nasty, says Pell (The Australian 15/2/06)

15 Feb 2006