Project Logo

Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
Legal Commentary

Pell speaks out for human rights

Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

9 October, 2008

Sydney, NSW, Australia: Bishop Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, today released a message from Cardinal George Pell in relation to the proposed abortion legislation before the Victorian Upper House.

His Eminence Cardinal Pell wishes to extend his solidarity with all those persons of good will who are currently confronted by the significant difficulties associated with the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Bill. He shares concerns being expressed that the Bill has the potential to create a dangerous precedent for legislators across Australia. The Bill presently before the Victorian Parliament is designed to make abortion legally available on demand up to 24 weeks and up to birth in certain circumstances.

Speaking from overseas His Eminence reminds us that "every human being has the inherent right to life. There is no right to the destruction of innocent persons and that our community should be offering vulnerable pregnant women much more than simply an increasing number of ever more accessible ways in which their unborn children can be killed".

This Bill, if passed in its current form, will also remove the right of doctors and other health care practitioners to refuse to be involved in or refuse referrals for abortions. Further, the Bill does not affirm the right of a pharmacist or nurse to decline, on the grounds of conscientious objection, to carry out the direction of a doctor to administer or supply a drug to cause an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Cardinal Pell said: "The rights of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief are fundamental. The ability to exercise conscientious objection is a keystone of democracy. All of us should have the right to hold a belief and not be compelled by the state to act contrary to that conviction. It is the difference between the free society and the one subject to tyranny. That conscientious objection is a fundamental human right is expressly recognised in similar legislation in various jurisdictions both overseas, as in the UK and New Zealand, and also domestically".

"Indeed, the 2006 Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities maintains that persons should not be coerced to act in a way that is contrary to the practice of their beliefs. It is difficult to see how anyone concerned about protecting human rights can fail to be deeply concerned by provisions in the proposed Victorian Legislation that would force people to act against their convictions. It is perhaps a striking illustration of how Charters of Rights are readily malleable and easily manipulated. Such Charters are quoted with gravitas and resolve when it suits and yet easily ignored when uncomfortable issues arise."

"If enacted, it may well fall to the Courts or the Federal Government to act, particularly if it is demonstrated that the final legislation breaches international treaties to which Australia is a signatory."

Cardinal Pell "sincerely hopes that the members of the Victorian Parliament will act to defend human life, to practically and generously support vulnerable pregnant mothers and to allow all men and women to be free to act in accord with their conscientiously held beliefs and principles."

For more information, contact Catholic Communications on 0437 409 344




Print Friendly and PDF