Cardinal George Pell entered the debate about abortion pill RU486 and urged members of Parliament not to thrust lawmaking on important moral issues to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, an unelected body that is partly funded by industry.
In his statement in the House of Representatives, the archbishop of Sydney argued that "RU486 will increase the danger of women suffering home-alone miscarriages and will further trivialize the destruction of human lives".
The cardinal’s statement came as Liberal backbenchers lobbied for amendments to a private member’s bill, which would eliminate Health Minister Tony Abbott's veto over any abortion drug. The two sets of amendments, both sponsored by Liberal MPs, would hand Parliament a new right of veto.
Queensland backbencher Andrew Laming’s amendments would hand approval decisions to the TGA but give Parliament a right of veto. He also told a meeting of Coalition MPs that he wanted politicians to have a similar veto on other "morally troubling" drugs, such as intelligence enhancers.
Workforce Participation Minister Sharman Stone, who reopened the debate on RU486 last year and highlighted limited access to surgical abortion for rural women, argued the amendments would neuter the bill.
Many opponents of the private members' bill are expected to back the amendments.