Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Say no to “extreme” abortion bill, bishop urges legislature

The Bishop of Tasmania has written to members of the legislative council urging them to reject a bill liberalizing abortion rules in the state.

Today the Members of the Legislative Council are debating the extreme abortion legislation. I wrote the following letter to each Member. Please join me in praying for the legislation’s rejection or significant modification.

18 November 2013

The Hon [Member], Parliament House, Salamanca Place, Hobart TAS 7000

Dear [Member]

Please be assured of my prayers for you and your fellow members of the Legislative Council as you consider the Reproductive Health Bill in these last few days of the parliamentary year.

As I wrote in my submission to the Committee, it is vitally important that in your deliberations you articulate the foundational principles that guide your decision making. The principled balance cannot be found in marginal amendments that may or may not appease one absolutist faction or another, but in the considered weighing up of the values of civilised society.

It remains my conviction that the Bill as it stands does not fairly consider these values. In particular, it does not give any recognition to the fact that an unborn child has at least some innate value. In its current form the Bill also denigrates and penalises those who exercise their profession in a way that does recognise the innate value of an unborn child.

Amendments may or may not be proposed that would seek to adjust thresholds and various criteria in the provision of terminations. Such adjustments rarely deal with the principles at stake and clear boundaries are required. A “balance of medical risk” criteria throughout pregnancy is necessary. It recognises that an unborn child has innate value, and termination should only be considered in the unfortunate but realistic event that the mother’s health or life is in danger.

Amendments may or may not be proposed as to the manner in which a physician or counsellor would be compelled to refer a mother to those who would provide a termination. Such adjustments do not deal with the fundamental concern: the recognition of the innate value of an unborn child does not compromise or diminish a physician’s duty of care, in fact it is an extension of care to the child itself. It is simply not conscionable to legislate for conscientious objection through some form of limited tolerance or exemption. Rather, those who guide their practice by offering care to all who come before them, should be affirmed and valued.

I am aware that the Bill deals with other issues; including encapsulating the notion of decriminalisation and the particularities of the Criminal Code. But these two points of principle are of particular importance to the maintenance of Tasmania as a life-affirming society. The two key points of principle:

 If the Bill cannot be amended to maintain a “balance of medical risk” criteria throughout pregnancy, I urge you to reject it.

 If the Bill cannot be amended to eliminate any compulsion for a physician or counsellor to abrogate the duty of care that they feel they owe to the unborn child and mother, I urge you to reject it.

Yours sincerely

John D Harrower OAM

Bishop of Tasmania

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