Australian bishop urges faithful to fight ‘radical’ abortion bill

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

A local bishop is speaking out against a bill to remove regulations on abortion in Adelaide, Australia, saying it would be the nation's most radical abortion law.

"The unborn deserve love and protection, not destruction," said Bishop Gregory O'Kelly SJ, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Port Pirie.

He warned that the legislation being considered "drastically reduces safeguards for the unborn" and would allow abortions "even well into the ninth month of pregnancy."

In a Feb. 14 letter to the people of his diocese, O'Kelly said the faithful "should all be extremely concerned about the proposed Abortion Law Reform Bill."

The Adelaide proposal would place abortion under the regulations of the state's health laws, rather than the state's criminal code. This would remove current rules such a requirement that a woman be a resident in South Australia for at least two months before procuring an abortion.

The legislation would also ban protestors from entering within 150 meters of an abortion clinic.

Greens MP Tammy Franks introduced the bill to Parliament and it will be debated in the comings weeks, with a vote later this year.

Similar legislation was recently passed in Queensland.

"This bill treats abortion simply as a medical procedure without moral significance," O'Kelly said in his letter. "There is no need for a medical opinion or a doctor's involvement and no reason need be given for an abortion. It will be the most radical abortion law in the country."

"We believe life to be a gift of God, to be cherished and revered," the bishop continued. "Christ said that he came that we might have life and have it to the full. Abortion is the destruction of the human life, an act that defies the sacred."

He urged people to contact their local Member of Parliament and ask them to vote against the bill.

Bishop O'Kelly also published a letter from Dr. Elvis Šeman, a gynecologist and member of the Guild of St Luke.

The doctor stressed the adverse effects that abortion can have on a woman's physical, psychological and emotional health.

He warned that the proposed legislation "aims to radically deregulate abortion and outlaw two important things - conscientious objection to abortion and the freedom to pray and offer pregnancy support near abortion clinics."

Under the bill, he said, abortion could "be performed by a non-medical provider, using any method and for any reason (including sex-selection for social reasons), at any gestation (up to term), leaving babies born alive to die, and using SA Health funding without the accountability of reporting."

Furthermore, Šeman warned, "Imposing a 'health access' zone makes pregnancy support services unlawful within 150m, restricts freedom of speech, denies potential support to vulnerable women who are ambivalent or may have been coerced, and provides excessive powers to police."

The doctor also emphasized the need to do more for women facing difficult pregnancies.  

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"As a Church community, I believe that, with few notable exceptions, we have done poorly in supporting those women and their families facing an unplanned pregnancy. They are left at the mercy of a health system which fast-tracks women to abortion and offers no alternatives."

Bishop O'Kelly agreed that the Church must reach out to women in need.

"We believe our main focus should be on supporting women who find themselves faced with an unplanned pregnancy and are grappling with this terrible choice," he said, "while also offering our unequivocal support and prayers to those women who are experiencing grief and loss."

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