A NEW Victorian law to decriminalise abortion is “unjust to the unborn, women and members of the Catholic medical profession”, a leading Queensland Catholic bioethicist said.
Queensland Bioethics Centre director Ray Campbell made the comment after the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 was voted into law by Victoria’s upper house on October 10.
Mr Campbell’s latest comments came after his recent warning in The Catholic Leader that Queensland hospitals could also be forced to disobey the law in the likely event that similar changes to abortion laws were brought into this state.
The Victorian bill was passed unamended, 23 votes to 17, in a conscience vote after three days of often tumultuous parliamentary debate.
Mr Campbell said he joined with Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart and Catholic Health Australia’s (CHA) chief executive officer Martin Laverty in supporting the right of Catholic hospitals, doctors and nurses to “conscientiously refrain from co-operating in any way with abortions”.
Archbishop Hart last week described the passing of the bill as a “betrayal of our shared humanity, a betrayal of women, and a betrayal of the innocent unborn child”.
The archbishop also vowed that Catholic hospitals would not perform abortions or provide referrals to hospitals that do.
“This is irrevocable,” he said.
Mr Laverty told The Catholic Leader last week that it was “hard to understand why the Victorian parliament had put the consciences of Catholic hospitals, doctors and nurses in jeopardy by passing the law”.
“It’s clear from this decision that this state’s parliament no longer respects a diversity of opinions and freedom of religious belief,” he said.
Under the new Victorian bill, abortion has been removed as an offence in the Crimes Act and terminations are legal up to 24 weeks gestation.
After 24 weeks, a woman must have the approval of two practitioners to receive an abortion.
Mr Laverty said the CHA was now reviewing the legal consequences of the bill and “its impact on our hospitals, staff and patients”.
Queensland co-ordinator for Right to Life Australia Graham Preston said the decision was a sad day for Australia and the world.