Tuesday, 10 March 2009

New tactics for overturning Victoria's abortion law: Federal legislation?

The Sunday Age reports that the Federal Government is coming under pressure to introduce legislation to overturn at least some aspects of Victoria's new Abortion laws. According to the paper, the head of Victoria's Catholic Health system is arguing that the Federal Government may be able to at least invalid the clauses which require those opposed to abortion to disclose the fact, and refer women on to someone who will perform the abortion.

The campaign to exclude catholics from social services

Perhaps the most dangerous and insidious aspect of Victoria's new Abortion laws are the anti-conscientious objection clauses, that purport to compel health professionals who object to abortions to refer women on to someone who will perform one.

Such clauses are becoming popular around the world - in the US President Obama is proposing to do something similar; in the UK genuinely catholic individuals and agencies have been forced out of providing various types of services due to requirements to promote homosexuality and other ideologies opposed to the faith. And in the US at the moment, the Boston Archdiocese is proposing to contract abortion and contraception services through a third party since such services are required to be provided in the context of a tender for health services to low income people.

A few years back, one might have expected Human Rights activists to support the right of Catholic doctors and nurses to follow their own conscience. But these days, the 'rights' movement generally seems nothing more than a weapon to impose the views of a minority on the majority - something Fr Brennan might want to bear in mind in his Inquiry on behalf of the Federal Government into the idea of a Human Right's Charter for Australia.

So is Federal legislation a possibility?

There are of course several famous cases in Australia's history of Federal legislation being enacted, based on Australia's accession to international treaties, that then overrule State legislation. But each time it has taken a pretty large major campaign to make it happen. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but to my eye, so far neither the Church nor the pro-life movement here has shown any sign it is capable of mounting such a campaign on this one.

But there does seem to be a pretty good case, since the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by Australia and overseen by the United Nations states that: "No one can be compelled to reveal his thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief."

The state of play at the moment is that several Senators and others have raised the possibility of legislation with the Federal Attorney General, Senator McClelland, who has so far resisted the suggestion. Let's get organized and start lobbying folks...

And a good place to start might be attending the community roundtables on the possible Human Rights Charter currently being held around NSW (see the link above).

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