By John Jalsevac

MELBOURNE, Australia, July 25, 2007 ( – Catholic bishops in the Australian state of Victoria have responded to legislation introduced into the Victorian parliament to decriminalize abortion by calling it a “backward step for women and their families.”

Instead of decriminalizing abortion “which might make abortion more widespread”, write Victoria’s bishops, legislators should instead be trying to find ways to reduce the state’s notoriously high abortion rate.

Although 20,000 abortions occur each year in the state of Victoria, abortion is still technically illegal under the Victorian Crimes Act. In 1969, the Supreme Court of Victoria ruled that abortion is lawful only when done to protect the physical or mental health of the woman and only if the danger of abortion is less than the danger posed by carrying the child to term.

However, the legislation proposed by Labor MP Candy Broad earlier this month would remove abortion from the Victorian Crimes Act and effectively leave no restraints upon abortion.

 “Victoria has one of the highest abortion rates in the world with at least 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in abortion,” write the bishops. “Women with unplanned pregnancies need to be offered alternatives to abortion. No woman should have to choose between her own wellbeing 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.”

Instead of decriminalizing abortion, parliamentarians should be working to “find ways of increasing financial and human support for those facing the dilemma of an unexpected pregnancy.” 

To that end, the bishops also extend an offer on behalf of Victoria’s Catholics to assist in whatever ways necessary to ensure that young, pregnant women are provided with the vital resources to avoid the need to obtain an abortion. “Catholics are ready to join with others in finding new and positive solutions to the widespread problem of abortion,” they say.

The letter concludes by condemning abortion and asking parliamentarians to vote against the proposed legislation: “We condemn all violence to women and children before or after birth and call on all state parliamentarians to reject all moves to decriminalise abortion in Victoria.”

See the complete letter from the Victoria bishops:

See related coverage:

Australia State Legislators Seek to Decriminalize Abortion, Citing Antiquated Law