The proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales is a “blotch on society”, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP told the state’s upper house parliamentary inquiry yesterday. Source: The Australian.
He was critical of what he called a “dogmatic determination” on the part of supporting politicians to accept no changes. The legislation had been rushed through a lower house vote with no attempt to consult with himself or other church leaders who had an interest.
Archbishop Fisher said the legislation, in its present form, would allow women to obtain an abortion not only for reasons related to their education or career but also if they did not like the gender or eye colour of an unborn child.
“If it doesn’t suit me I can abort – that is a flippant view of life,” he said.
The NSW Parliament is considering legislation titled the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill that would remove from a century-old statute that abortion should be treated as an offence under the Crimes Act with jail as a possible penalty for practitioners.
Abortions are legally performed in NSW by doctors for medical and other reasons – but a group of MPs from major parties wants to follow other states in deleting termination of pregnancy as an offence that still can be the subject of criminal prosecution.
Archbishop Fisher said he had “grave concerns” that performing abortions, or referring women to other doctors for an abortion, could be forced on Catholic medical professionals against their conscience.
He said the legislation in its current form “trivialises abortion” for women who felt they might not have any alternative. It made more sense for abortion to remain in the Crimes Act because of the “value of life” with discretion left to prosecutors and judges in applying the law.
Other religious leaders spoke to the inquiry yesterday, including representatives from the Maronite Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as Jewish Rabbi Nochum Schapiro and Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies, 7news.com.au reports.
The religious leaders - along with representatives of Australian Christian Lobby, Right to Life NSW and Australian Family Association who also gave evidence - say they weren't consulted prior to the bill being introduced to Parliament.
Thousands of people have made submissions to the upper house committee examining the private member's bill since Friday, the hearing was told.
Churches take aim at NSW abortion bill (The Australian)
Religious leaders oppose NSW abortion bill (7news.com.au)
Abortion debate heats up as religious leaders front inquiry (The Daily Telegraph)
Leaders front NSW inquiry (The Catholic Weekly)