by Steven Ertelt
October 27, 2006
Sydney, Australia (LifeNews.com) — A new government-funded pregnancy counseling program designed to help pregnant women find abortion alternatives will begin next week. Women on Medicare will be able to get counseling from the program three times during their pregnancy.
Women who talk to their doctor, psychologist, social worker or mental health nurse on a referral in the program are entitled to a $55 Medicare rebate to cover the costs.
The program is part of a $50 million package the Australian government announced to try to cut the abortion rates following the parliament’s approval of the dangerous abortion drug RU 486. Parliament gave authority over the drug to a governmental agency and removed it from pro-life Health Minister Tony Abbott.
Abortion advocates opposed the counseling plan because they believe it is biased. Abortion practitioners are excluded from providing the counseling while pregnancy centers are allowed to provide it.
They tried to change the direction of the counseling program, but an Australia Senate committee defeated the measure saying it would lead to more recommendations to have abortions.
Anyone providing the counseling under the program must take a course on how to counsel in a non-biased manner.
Meanwhile, the National Pregnancy Support Telephone Helpline, a toll-free pregnancy help phone number, will begin next year. The 24 hour a day hotline would be funded with $12 million over four years.
"Together, these new measures will improve the availability of timely, confidential and professional pregnancy counseling for Australian women, including those in rural and remote areas," Abbott told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
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.
About 88,000 legal abortions are done annually in Australia.