Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Archbishop: Abortion Law would Close Catholic Hospitals

The Roman Catholic Church in Australia is playing hardball with the legislature by threatening to close Catholic hospital wards if a new abortion measure becomes law.

-- From "Support for abortion bill looking shaky" posted at The Age 9/23/08

Victoria's controversial abortion legislation is at risk of being defeated in the upper house after the Catholic Church threatened to close some hospital wards if the bill is passed.

Archbishop Denis Hart has threatened to withdraw the maternity and emergency departments from Catholic hospitals if the bill is passed through the Legislative Council next month.

Key to the church's concerns is a clause in the Abortion Law Reform Bill requiring doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer their patient to another doctor who doesn't have the same objection.

The bill, which passed through the lower house earlier this month, seeks to legalise abortion up to 24 weeks gestation, removing it as a crime from Victoria's Crimes Act.

"If, based on their religious beliefs, they don't want to perform an abortion that's fine, they shouldn't be compelled to," Liberty Victoria vice-president Anne O'Rourke told AAP.

"However, to then say they shouldn't be compelled to refer that woman on is taking it to an unnecessary degree."

The Catholic Church has 15 hospitals in Victoria, accounting for about a third of all births in the state.

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