Sydney archbishop applauds rejection of abortion bill

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Catholics in the Australian state of New South Wales applauded the rejection of bills in the upper house of the parliament that would have legalized abortion.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P. of Sydney called the defeat of "extreme" bills legalizing abortion in the state "great news" in a Facebook post on Thursday.

The proposed laws were voted down 25-14 in the New South Wales legislative council on Thursday.

Abortions had been listed as criminal acts, although previous court rulings determined that doctors could perform them in certain cases where the physical or emotional health of women were deemed to be at stake. Currently, there are between 25,000 and 35,000 abortions performed per year in the state, according to the group Right to Life NSW.

The bills, however, would have gone farther than decriminalizing abortion, the Archdiocese of Sydney explained.

They would also have forced objecting doctors to refer a patient seeking an abortion to an abortion provider, and would have prevented sidewalk counselors from coming within 150 meters of an abortion clinic, according to Archbishop Fisher.

That last mandate would have made "prayerful vigils like the popular 40 Days for Life punishable with fines and imprisonment," he wrote. Archbishop Fisher issued a petition to Catholics to oppose the proposed law.

The bills "limit freedom of speech and freedom of assembly," the petition said, and lack vital "safeguards" that protect the health of women. They discard "restrictions against unqualified persons performing an abortion including self-administered abortions."

"Furthermore, (the legislation) fails to include safeguards to ensure women give fully informed consent and overrides any professional or conscientious objection that medical practitioners may have to abortion," the petition said.

"This Bill disregards the reality that many women have abortions as a result of pressure, coercion, lack of support and/or domestic violence from others, particularly their male partners, and it removes protections for the health of women."

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