Vic bishops attack abortion move

Victoria's diocesan bishops have issued a statement characterising a move to decriminalise abortion in the state as a "backward step" saying that political leaders should be looking for ways to reduce one of the world's highest abortion rates.

In a statement issued yesterday, the bishops say that moves to decriminalise abortion would be a backward step for women and their families.

Removing abortion from the crimes act cannot make something so unethical acceptable, the bishops argue.

"Our political leaders should be trying to find new ways to reduce Victoria's high abortion rate rather than risk taking any steps which might make abortion more widespread," the statement signed by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors, Sale Bishop Jeremiah Coffey and Sandhurst Bishop Joe Grech says.

"Victoria has one of the highest abortion rates in the world with at least 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in abortion.

"Women with unplanned pregnancies need to be offered alternatives to abortion. No woman should have to choose between her own wellbeing and the life of her child.

"Yet all too often women report feeling that they had no other option. Abortion has become the only 'choice' and is a reflection that we are failing women," the statement says.

According to the bishops, recent studies have shown that most Australians would support new initiatives aimed at reducing the high rate of abortion.

"It is time for politicians and all people of good-will to leave behind the polarised debate of the past and work together to find genuine ways to support women and their families.

"We call on the parliament to investigate ways of increasing financial and human support for those facing the dilemma of an unexpected pregnancy.

"Women need good counselling and support, healthcare, welfare and housing assistance. Provision also needs to be made for their educational needs so that they can finish school or university," the bishop say, highlighting the church's own initiatives in the field.

"We condemn all violence to women and children before or after birth and call on all state parliamentarians to reject all moves to decriminalise abortion in Victoria," the bishops conclude.

Minister backs bishops

Meanwhile, The Age reports that Government minister James Merlino, a Catholic, also rejected a move to decriminalise abortion, saying there was a need to cut the number of terminations in Victoria rather than relax abortion laws.

The Sports Minister and a social conservative, Mr Merlino said he supported toughening abortion laws to protect unborn children.

Former Bracks minister Candy Broad has introduced a private members' bill aiming to remove abortion from the Crimes Act to insulate women and doctors from the legal ramifications of abortion.

"What is proposed in the legislation is really open slather, anything goes, and I won't support that," Mr Merlino said.

All parties are expected to allow a conscience vote on the controversial bill.

Conservative's tougher abortion stance (The Age, 25/7/07)
Victoria's Catholic Bishops call on Parliamentarians to reject plans to decriminalise abortion (Catholic Communications, 24/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Melbourne Archdiocese
James Merlino (Vic Parliament Database)
James Merlino (Wikipedia)
Not sectarian to criticise pro-abortion politicians: US bishop (CathNews, 16/7/07)
Amnesty, Vic ALP moves on abortion provoke Catholic ire (CathNews, 8/5/06)

25 Jul 2007