by Steven Ertelt
February 20, 2006
Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — Australia Health Minister Tony Abbott is coming under fire from abortion advocates for his plan to spend $60 million over five years to provide women counseling and assistance in finding abortion alternatives. They worry the counseling will be one-sided but he assures it will be diverse.
Abbott said over the weekend that any groups chosen to participate in the program would not impose their religious views on women who call a national pregnancy hotline he hopes to establish.
He has not ruled out allowing church-run groups that help [regnant women to operate the hotline but he said concerns from lawmakers are unfounded and that the groups will be chosen based on their professionalism.
"One of the criteria on which anyone will be selected to provide telephone counseling is the ability to refer people to other services provided by other people if someone rings in and says; ‘I’d rather be counseled by someone of a different philosophical persuasion’," he told the Australian Associated Press.
"We certainly won’t be ramming religion down anyone’s throat. This is a pluralist society," he added.
Abbott said the Australian government has contracted with religious groups in the past to provide government services and there hasn’t been any problems.
Labor’s health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, who backs abortion, says she doesn’t want church-backed groups running the hotline.
Abbott is expected to take the proposal soon to the government cabinet.
The 24 hour a day hotline would be funded with $12 million over four years. A second part would consist of a Medicare rebate to provide women three counseling sessions with psychologists or other medical professionals.
The proposals have the support of Prime Minister John Howard.
"Given the majority view of the Australian community about the present law, what can we do as a nation to reduce the number of [abortions]?," he told ABC Radio.
The proposal is coming days after the Australian parliament voted in favor of a bill that would pave the way for legalizing the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug.