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Catholic maternity wards 'face closure' if abortion law passes

Thanks to NewSkeptic for the link.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/23/2372460.htm

Catholic maternity wards 'face closure' if abortion law passes

Victorian Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart has warned today that Catholic hospitals could close their maternity departments if the State Government's proposed abortion law is passed.

The law would require a doctor who does not want to perform an abortion to refer the patient to an alternative doctor or hospital.

The Catholic Church owns and runs 15 hospitals in Victoria which account for about one third of all Victorian births, including St Vincent's, Cabrini and Mersey Private.

Archbishop Hart has written to all state MPs, asking them to reject the new abortion bill which was recently passed by the lower house.

His letter comes with a warning too: if the laws are passed, he says, the Catholic Church may have to get out of hospitals altogether.

"We want to make it very clear that before this Bill is passed, the Upper House and the broader government need to give consideration to the fact that this will have ramifications on Catholic hospitals," Catholic Health Australia chief executive Martin Laverty said.

"We're hoping to resolve those issues so that we don't need to revisit the services that we offer the Victorian community."

The new law

The new law requires a doctor to provide an effective referral to a woman who wants an abortion, if the doctor has a conscientious objection to the procedure.

The Catholic Archdiocese says a doctor would be breaking the law if they did not provide a referral.

"What this law is now seeking to do is impose a mandatory mechanism whereby doctors of all religious or otherwise persuasion would need to act in a certain way or face breaking the law," Mr Laverty said.

"We don't think that that type of control on medical professionals is appropriate.

"Before the Bill is determined in the Upper House, Upper House members should think through all of the consequences and particularly this issue of conscience.

"If a health professional is forced to act against their conscience, surely that's in conflict with the charter of human rights, which after all is a piece of legislation or a law made by the Victorian Government itself."

The Catholic Archbishop was not available for an interview, but The Age newspaper quotes him as saying that "providing a referral is a cooperation in evil".

He says that by including a mandatory provision, the new laws make a mockery of Victoria's Charter of Human Rights.

'Precluded from chapter'

Victoria's Attorney General Rob Hulls disagrees, saying abortion was removed from the charter after discussions with the Catholic Church.

"It has to be remembered that abortion was specifically precluded from the charter, that was actually at a request after discussions with the Catholic Church," he said.

"So the charter of human rights and responsibilities specifically precludes any laws in relation to abortion.

"I don't think there will be any problem with the charter of human rights, in fact, I'm quite sure about that."

Mr Hulls, who voted against the new laws in the Lower House, sympathises with the Catholic Archbishop's concerns but doubts Catholic hospitals will have to close any services.

"I'm not too sure how many Catholic hospitals actually perform abortions. My understanding is they're not performed in Catholic hospitals," he said.

Callers to ABC Local Radio this morning said the Church was being hypocritical in threatening to withdraw services.

"Fair enough if they want to say, 'We're not performing terminations', but I would like to be able to exercise a choice to have a referral to another hospital where I could make that choice," said one caller.

"The Catholic hospitals are accepting a very large amount of money from a promptly elected Government in Victoria, and therefore I believe they have an obligation to accept majority rule as far as these issues are concerned, otherwise they should be refusing to accept the money," said another.

The Abortion Bill is due to go to the Upper House in the first week of October.

TAGGED: HUMAN RIGHTS, LAW, RELIGION


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