Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia is railing against a bill in the state of Victoria, which will require doctors who object to performing abortions to do so in “emergencies,” among other anti-conscience rules. The Catholic archbishop labeled the bill "a real threat to the continued existence of Catholic hospitals.”
“I write now with a deep sadness for mothers-to-be and children yet to be born, and with a profound sense of anguish at the draconian clauses in the Bill which attack long held religious beliefs and practice,” wrote Archbishop Hart.
“Make no mistake about it,” he continued, “the Bill goes beyond codifying current clinical practice, as its proponents claim, and will set an unfortunate precedent which other states may follow.”
Among the numerous objections to the Bill he dubbed, “an unprecedented attack on the freedom to hold and exercise fundamental religious beliefs,” the archbishop named the requirement for health professionals with conscientious objection to abortion to provide a referal to an abortionist and the demand that objecting doctors be made to perform an abortion in an “emergency.” These mandates make a “mockery of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and the Equal Opportunity Act,” Archbishop Hart said.
The Archbishop of Melbourne also pointed out that the bill is “clearly intended to require Catholic hospitals to permit the referral of women for abortions.
“As one commentator has put it, it is an insidious irony that this coercion of conscience is being carried out in the name of choice. Parliamentarians are being afforded the opportunity to exercise their consciences to remove the right of health professionals to exercise theirs.”
Archbishop Hart adamantly stated that “Catholic hospitals will not perform abortions and will not provide referrals for the purpose of abortion.”
Noting that the Bill is an attack not just on the hospitals but also on their ability to serve the larger community, the prelate declared that it poses a “real threat to the continued existence of Catholic hospitals.
“Under these circumstances, it is difficult to foresee how Catholic hospitals could continue to operate maternity or emergency departments in this state in their current form,” he wrote.
The Age reported on Wednesday that the 15 Catholic hospitals in Victoria are “likely to tell their doctors and nurses to break the law rather than refer women to abortion providers.”
The heads of the Catholic hospitals unanimously determined on Wednesday that they will oppose the state's proposed abortion law, which will come up for debate in the Parliament's upper house next month.
"We cannot in good faith provide an abortion or a referral to an abortion provider,” Martin Laverty, chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, told The Age.
"We will not require our doctors to comply with the law. In the event that the bill is passed we will ensure that staff are able to examine their consciences," he said.