By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

MELBOURNE, May 30, 2008 ( – A report by the Australian state of Victoria Law Reform Commission recommending ways to remove abortion from the state’s Crimes Act has been rejected by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.

Abortions in Victoria are governed by the 1969 Menhennitt ruling, which states an abortion can be committed if a woman’s health is threatened. This has made abortion available virtually on demand, though it is still technically illegal.

The three options to decriminalize abortion suggested by the Law Reform Commission are: to give doctors authority to decide whether abortion is necessary because pregnancy poses a risk to the woman; to give women the authority to make that determination up to 24 weeks’ gestation; or to give women the power to choose an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy.

Archbishop Hart has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the issue before the introduction of legislation.

“Matters of such gravity and community concern should not be determined on the basis of a single committee report,” Archbishop Hart said in an archdiocesan statement released to the media yesterday.

The Archbishop said that the Victorian Law Reform Commission inquiry does not provide an adequate basis for the Government to legislate. As an unelected body, it has produced a report that is not responsive to community concerns.

“The Commission completely dismisses concerns about proper respect for human life. It seeks to have abortion treated as though it were any other medical procedure. This flies in the face of the fact that the life of a human being is intentionally destroyed. It also flies in the face of community concern for a woman faced with the predicament of abortion.”

“All three options provided by the Commission reject requirements for making supportive counseling available, requiring an independent medical opinion, reporting adverse events or restricting abortion to places that have adequate facilities for a major surgical procedure,” the Archbishop explained.

A pastoral letter issued by Australian Catholic bishops last summer stated, “Victoria has one of the highest abortion rates in the world with at least 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in abortion. Women with unplanned pregnancies need to be offered alternatives to abortion. No woman should have to choose between her own well-being and the life of her child. Yet all too often women report feeling that they had no other option. Abortion has become the only ‘choice’ and is a reflection that we are failing women.” (Australian Bishops Respond to Legislation that Would Decriminalize Abortion:

Archbishop Hart expressed concern that, “All of the Commission’s options would dramatically change the law of Victoria making it completely permissive and giving women in difficulty no support. The Parliament is given no option to consider that would reflect greater balance and the nature of the community concern over abortion. Inevitably, the number of abortions will increase as will the number of children aborted who are matured enough to be born alive.”

“The Commission’s Report fails to address the gravity of the decision for a woman and the adverse effects of abortion. The Commission’s Report completely fails to address the needs of a woman in the predicament of an unexpected pregnancy for support and the opportunity to discuss the issues with someone who is supportive of her and independent. Everything can rest on the advice and opinion of the abortion doctor,” Archbishop Hart said.

“Before taking any further steps with this issue, a responsible Government would shift the discussion to a forum of elected representatives who can take evidence for themselves and gauge the nature of community concerns that have been obscured by this report. A Parliamentary enquiry is needed,” the Archbishop concluded.

Link to Melbourne Archdiocese Media Release:

Read related coverage:

Australian Bishops Issue Pastoral Letter Against Decriminalisation of Abortion

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