SALRI has completed both its public consultation and a series of roundtable consultation sessions with a wide cross section of groups. Its report is due to be completed in August.
The Catholic Church in South Australia had representation at two roundtable sessions and Apostolic Administrator Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ provided a written submission on behalf of the Archdiocese of Adelaide and the Diocese of Port Pirie.
Church officials also met on several occasions with interested groups and individuals, including 40 Days for Life and the Leaders of Christian Churches SA.
In February, the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI), based at the Adelaide University Law School, was requested by the State Attorney General, Vickie Chapman, to examine South Australia’s abortion laws. SALRI was asked to consider a suitable legislative framework for the termination of pregnancy with the aim of modernising the law in South Australia and adopting best practice reforms with a view to making abortion a regulated medical procedure under health laws as opposed to a criminal law issue.
In the submission to SALRI, Bishop O’Kelly said while some may consider abortion a “mere medical procedure” the Church asserted it was a “medical procedure that by definition ends the life of a foetus, a life which the Church firmly believes is an unborn child – a unique individual whom we strongly believe should be protected and loved, not terminated and discarded”.
The submission also expressed concerns about any changes to the law that would shift the focus of control more towards the woman and less exclusively with medical practitioners.
“Although medical practitioners will continue to have an important part to play in abortion procedures, we question whether and how appropriate safeguards will be maintained for the sake of the woman, her unborn child and medical and/or health practitioners called upon to assist them.”
Bishop O’Kelly said many people, whether or not they adhere to the faith of the Catholic Church, “share our concerns and cautions about proposed abortion law reform”.
In a letter to clergy, deacons and Religious last month, Bishop O’Kelly said it was timely to encourage parishioners and prayer groups, particularly those saying the rosary, “to pray for an outcome which respects the sacredness of life and ensures the protection of the unborn child is the ultimate goal of medical practice and the legal framework that supports it”.
“We also offer our prayers and support to women grappling with an unplanned pregnancy and those who are experiencing grief and loss,” he said.
“They deserve the compassion and whatever support the wider Christian community can provide for them.
“Abortion is an act that no mother would really want to undertake, and it is often enormous social or family pressures that force this decision.
“We think also of the members of the medical profession. Their lives are devoted to healing and they are to be the agents of life not death, of nurturing not of destruction.”
Bishop O’Kelly also encouraged parishioners to contact their local Members of Parliament to express their views.
The SALRI submission and Bishop O’Kelly’s letter can be read at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au
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