NSW abortion bill stirs religious, medical debate over late-term termination provision
Updated August 04, 2019 23:43:39
Doctors say fears over late-term abortions are “unfounded and unfair” as debate swirls ahead of a vote on legalising abortion in NSW next week.
- The bill to legalise abortion in NSW is expected to be voted on by the end of next week
- The Catholic Church said MPs are accountable to God whether they believe or not
- Doctors say the late-term abortion provision will not increase the rate of terminations
If passed, the bill would end the 119-year criminalisation of abortion in the state and allow for terminations after 22 weeks with the consent of two doctors.
Over the weekend, political, medical and religious leaders argued over whether abortion should be treated as a legal issue or a social and health one.
Speaking at Sunday Mass, the dean of Sydney’s St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral said legalising abortion would just be “another attack on the conscience rights of Catholics”.
Reverend Don Richardson used his sermon to urge partitioners to contact their local MPs and persuade them to vote against the bill.
“We need to constantly remind our representatives in Parliament that they are accountable to us in the short term, and to God, whether they believe in him or not, in the end,” he said.
But president of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Vijay Roach, said abortion simply does not belong in the Crimes Act.
“This is an issue of compassion, respect and health care and abortion care is part of health care,” he said.
“Wider society needs to recognise the autonomy of women and their right to make decisions about their own body.”
Some religious and conservative leaders argue the provision for late-term abortions is “extreme” and will open the floodgates.
“I can’t believe for the life of me that these respected parliamentarians would ever put their name to a bill which would kill an unborn baby the day before birth,” Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher has called the bill a “dream” for the abortion industry.
But Dr Roach said such claims were “disengenous, unfounded and unfair”.
“A lot of medical conditions in pregnancy will only become apparent in later pregnancy and other states have showed there is no increase in abortions,” he said.
Medical Director of Family Planning NSW Deborah Bateson said support for decriminalising abortion was widespread in the medical world.
“[A] doctor has an obligation not to make a decision for the woman … we cannot impede. We can still have conscientious objection but we must refer on in a timely manner,” she said.
‘Not black and white’: Uniting Church
The Uniting Church broke rank with other religions this weekend, claiming that respect for life means advocating for the needs of women as well as the unborn child.
“When abortion is practised indiscriminately it damages respect for human life. However, we live in a broken world where people face difficult decisions,” a letter to state MPs said.
Reverend Simon Hansford told the ABC the Uniting Church believes abortion should not be treated as a criminal issue and moral judgement should not be passed on the act itself.
“There’s a whole series of understandings of what terminations are about. The reasons for it, women’s lives, children’s lives — a whole range of things and it can’t be simplified down into a black and white issue.”
But on Sunday, Police Minister David Elliott, who has stated his intention to vote against the bill, said time was needed for serious public debate on the ethical matter.
“Late-term abortion needs to be very well considered and this legislation doesn’t do that,” he said.
“[And] I think forcing a doctor to refer a patient is illiberal … we should not be dictating what doctors can and can’t say.”
Although the bill is tipped to pass, Mr Elliott said a few MPs have changed their mind in the last week, which he described as a “good thing”.
The new bill will be put forward by independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, who says it has more support than any other piece of legislation in the history of Parliament with its 15 co-sponsors.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard are among those who have pledged to vote for the bill.
First posted August 04, 2019 16:55:39