MELBOURNE, Australia, APRIL 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Bishops in the state of Victoria are urging Australians to keep abortion as part of the Crimes Act, even though the state already has abortion on demand in practice.
In a pastoral letter signed by six prelates and an apostolic administrator, Church leaders urged Victoria to adopt laws that maintain abortion as a crime, and to restrict and rein in provisions for the killing of the unborn.
Abortion in Victoria has been practically available upon demand since a 1969 court decision made it permissible whenever there was perceived sufficient danger to the mother's physical or mental health.
"Thus, the judge introduced notions of 'necessity' and 'proportionality' into the interpretation of the provisions," the pastoral letter explained. "Since 1969, in practice 'necessity' and 'proportionality' have been stretched to include almost any reason to procure an abortion. The need even to offer a justification for an abortion is seldom recognized."
So then why the push to "decriminalize" abortion -- a measure Parliament is expected to consider in the coming months -- the bishops asked.
"The motivation seems to be to remove the 'unlawful' stigma currently attached to 'medical' abortion in virtue of the fact that it is named as an offense in the Crimes Act," the pastoral letter proposed. "But the law is a great educator and if the law approves something then people gradually accept a new understanding of what is right and what is wrong. People begin to think: 'Abortion is lawful now, so it’s right.'
"Taking abortion out of the Crimes Act would undoubtedly be a victory for the pro-abortion forces. But moving the regulation of abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act would also give strength to the fallacy that abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure."
The pastoral letter went on to call for justice for women and the unborn, and particularly the unborn who have mental or physical handicaps.
"When a state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of the state based on law are undermined," it said.
And the letter added: "Over the last 40 years, the pervasive influence of relativism and materialism have combined to expose the unborn to the new culture of death. Yet, while this has been happening, science and technology -- such as discovery of DNA and the advent of ultrasound imaging -- have made it clear beyond argument that the unborn child is a fully human individual in the womb. Moreover, medical practice continues to perfect its techniques for caring not only for the mother but also for her unborn infant."
The bishops further called for protection for women.
They noted a study from the United Kingdom-based Royal College of Psychiatrists asserting "that abortion in various cases can lead to mental health issues, that women contemplating abortion should be advised of mental health risks and that better research is needed on this phenomenon."
The pastoral letter called for help for women facing difficult pregnancies: "The Church does not condemn women who have had abortions. Together with their children, they are the principal victims of this new culture of death. Often women resort to abortion for complex reasons, abandoned or under pressure, or led on by false information."
The Victorian bishops also mention the phenomenon of eugenics.
"Striving to breed a perfect human race is known as Eugenics," the letter explained. "Modern pre-natal technology shows human life in the womb in vivid detail. Myths that the unborn is just 'a mass of cells' or 'part of a woman’s body' collapse when we actually see human life in the womb. While this technology can be put to therapeutic use, it can also be misused, to seek out imperfect human beings and then destroy them before birth, even in the last phases of pregnancy.
"How grossly unfair it is to impose a death sentence on an innocent human being just for the 'crime' of being imperfect physically or mentally."
The pastoral letter concludes by calling on Victorians to write their Members of Parliament, clearly expressing their views against decriminalization.
The authors asked "Members of Parliament to listen calmly and rationally to the voice of conscience, to weigh carefully the harm involved in this legislation" and "all men and women of good will to reject abortion and choose life."
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