Pro-life leaders oppose broad expansion of abortion in Australian state

Pregnant hospital doctor Credit Africa Studio Shutterstock CNA Africa Studio/Shutterstock

A parliamentary committee reportedly supported a proposal Oct. 5 to significantly expand abortion in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland.

The proposed law, set to be debated in Queensland parliament this month, would allow women to terminate pregnancies up to 22 weeks gestation and until birth with the permission of two doctors. The proposed changes are based on a June report from the Queensland Law Reform Commission, which recommended removing abortion from the Criminal Code.

The proposal would also enforce 150 meter "safe zones" around clinics and medical facilities that perform abortions in order to exclude protesters.

Under the proposal, doctors would be permitted to refuse to perform abortions if they have moral objections to doing so, but they must refer patients to another doctor.

Although the Labor party controls the majority of Queensland's parliament, Health Minister Steven Miles urged the opposition Liberal National Party to allow a conscience vote on the bill. Miles said if the LNP allows a vote to take place, "the bill will likely pass," and "if they don't it will be very difficult for it to pass," as reported by the Australian Associated Press.

Tim Mander, deputy leader of the LNP, has refused to confirm or deny if his party would allow a conscience vote, saying it would be decided at a party room meeting Oct. 9. He said the Health Minister's demands indicated that the majority party was uncertain whether they had enough votes from its own members to pass the bill.

Abortion is currently illegal in Queensland except when a doctor believes a woman's physical or mental health to be in serious danger.

Opponents of the bill have argued that while the legislative proposal is being presented as a matter of health, it will instead legalize abortion based on financial, social, or eugenic reasons.

Dr. Jovina James, a general practitioner from Queensland, objected to the bill's inclusion of a requirement for conscientious objectors to abortion to refer women to another doctor for the procedure.

"Do they even know what conscientious objection means?" she said in September as reported by the diocesan newspaper The Catholic Leader.

"It is not a distaste for abortion. It's a deep, unshakeable belief that this act is contrary to the human good…that this is not healthcare, and this is not what I signed up for when I promised to 'do no harm.'"

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane weighed in on the proposed legal changes in August.

"According to the draft bill, abortion will be permitted until the moment of delivery if two doctors consider that 'in all circumstances, the termination should be performed'," Archbishop Coleridge told The Catholic Leader.

"So, it's not a health issue. It's an essentially moral issue that concerns the good of society as a whole because it touches on questions of life and death."

He cautioned that many women choose abortion out of desperation, believing that they have no other options, because those who support abortion do not present other choices.

"Those MPs who favor the legislation should say why they can accept that Queensland babies who may have reached 40 weeks gestation can be aborted when health isn't a factor," he said.

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