The Archbishop of Melbourne opened a crisis pregnancy center on Wednesday, saying the womb had become an endangered area. His action came as a group defending the conscience rights of doctors criticized an Abortion Law Reform Bill pending in the parliament of the Australian state of Victoria which could force medical professionals to take part in abortions.
The group Doctors in Conscience against Abortion Bill recently formed to advocate for the rejection of the bill. Its membership includes almost 200 doctors as well as nurses, psychologists, and pharmacists.
The group represents people of various faiths and people professing no faith.
Some of its members spoke at a conference in Queens Hall at Parliament House in Melbourne on Monday.
Joanne Grainger, who is a lecturer in nursing and a bioethicist, said that if the bill is enacted nurses will be forced to be accomplices in abortion against their reasoned conscience.
"This is completely in opposition to current practice in Victoria and limits nurses’ freedom of thought, conscience and religion," she argued.
Jacinta Le Page, a fifth-year medical student, noted that she was being trained to make life and death decisions while caring for people. Such decisions, she stated, require the integrity and conscience the proposed bill would have her disregard.
She appealed to members of parliament, urging: “Do not strip us of our freedom to exercise our deepest commitment to practicing medicine – saving and improving quality of life.”
As debate on the proposal began in Victoria’s Upper House, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis J. Hart opened a pregnancy assistance center in Frankston, a town south of Melbourne.
The center is a not-for-profit incorporated charity and the initiative of parishioners drawn from a number of parishes in the Mornington Peninsula Deanery, CathNews reports.
The storefront center was crowded by supporters and dozens of spectators lined the pavement outside to welcome the archbishop.
Archbishop Hart said he was “particularly delighted” to be asked to open the center, which he credited to the “persistent efforts” of some “determined local mothers.”
“It will fill a critical gap on the Mornington Peninsula and beyond, especially for young and needy people who've been seeking information and resources about the various challenges of pregnancy.”
The archbishop said that free pregnancy tests will be offered at the center along with services for financial, family, and relationship support.
The volunteer-staffed center consists of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who have all “volunteered to pool and share their own wealth of experience that have helped them survive personal difficulty, or trying circumstances,” Archbishop Hart said.
The Australian prelate also used the occasion to warned of the consequences of passing the proposed Abortion Bill. "At a time when our state parliamentarians are debating changes to our abortion laws, communities will welcome the establishment of centers such as these which very much identify with the anxiety of single mothers, mums with several young children and those who've also been abandoned by partners or families. One may be forgiven for suggesting that to live in the womb or old age should be considered endangered areas.”
"Unplanned pregnancies don't have to be regarded as crises to trigger alarm or despair. Environments like this will provide emotional support, assistance and advice without pressure. Women and girls in such distress, and their partners, will be particularly welcomed here," he concluded.