Victoria, Australia Upper House OKs Bill to Legalize Abortions, May Get Lawsuit
by Steven Ertelt
October 10, 2008
Melbourne, Australia (LifeNews.com) — The upper house of the Victoria state parliament has approved a bill to officially legalize abortions there even though abortions have been allowed in Australia for years. However, the measure may face a legal challenge from a Catholic group worried about being forced to do abortions.
Under the so-called Abortion Law Reform Bill, abortions will be allowed for any reason up to 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Lawmakers in the lower house approved the measure in September on a 48-28 vote with MPs getting a conscience vote allowing them to depart from the party position on the legislation.
The lower house also defeated every one of the dozens of pro-life amendments to limit the reach of the bill — including lowering the allowance for abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks into pregnancy.
Planning Minister Justin Madden backed the bill and, in the end, a 23-17 division was considered a decisive victory, though final votes remain on the measure.
Meanwhile, Catholic Health Australia says it may file a lawsuit against the bill if attempts are made to force Catholic medical centers or staff to do abortions or refer women for them.
"We will challenge any new law in order to fulfil our Catholic principles. We are greatly disappointed that the parliament did not hear our request to let staff at our hospitals practice within their own conscience," CHA director Martin Laverty told The Australian.
Should they be forced to do abortions or refer for them, "we will stand right behind our doctors and nurses and back them to the hilt if they are challenged in exercising their ethical rights," he said.
Some 15 hospitals under Catholic Health Australia operate in Victoria and Laverty says his group’s attorneys will review the legislation again for any problems.
Pro-Life Victoria president Denise Cameron told the newspaper she was sad to hear the news.
"This debate is by no means over … and I think in the cold light of day … (the politicians) will wake up to what they’ve actually done," she said.
Earlier, a group of more than 100 doctors called Doctors in Conscience Against Abortion Bill said the pro-abortion bill may have the effect of reducing the number of medical professionals to help the state’s millions of residents.
They say doctors will retire early or move to another Australian state because of some of the onerous provisions in the legislation.
Pediatrician Brian Conway told The Age newspaper that the members are concerned about the aspect of the bill that forces doctors to refer women who want an abortion to someone who will do one — essentially making them participate in the obtaining of the abortion.
"Many doctors, nurses and pharmacists with strong ethical, religious and cultural beliefs against abortion will have to consider whether to continue to practice in breach of the law or to discontinue working as health-care professionals in this state," Conway told the paper.
"The state should not coerce its health professionals to participate in the taking of human life," he said.
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