Efforts in New South Wales’ state parliament to remove abortion from its criminal code have prompted a fresh round of debate on the issue, with thousands protesting both for and against the proposed changes and various groups, including Christian organisations, opposing or expressing concerns with aspects of the Bill.
While Seventh-day Adventist leaders have not so far publicly lobbied on the issue, they have been active behind the scenes, corresponding with politicians and working together with other Christian organisations. South Pacific Division (SPD) president Glenn Townend has written to local members of the NSW Legislative Assembly (lower house) as well as to each of the Legislative Council (upper house) members, saying that “personally and as a Church we do not support the details of the Bill”.
While proponents of the Reproductive Care Health Reform Bill have cast NSW as lagging behind the Australian states, all of which have decriminalised abortion, the Bill’s implications are more complex than NSW simply falling into line.
“New South Wales is the only Australian state in which abortion remains a crime,” said Ronald Bower, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the SPD. “However, the laws governing abortion in other parts of Australia are inconsistent and some are difficult to interpret. The present public debate in NSW not only concerns whether abortion should be treated as a crime, but also the contentious issues of late-term terminations, conscientious objections by health professionals, whether pregnant women should receive counselling before a termination, terminations for the purposes of sex selection and the termination of the lives of unborn children with disabilities.”
Pastor Terry Johnson, president of the Greater Sydney Conference, said his team has offered support to Christian legal thinktank Freedom for Faith, which made a submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry on the Bill, focusing specifically on the issue of conscientious objection; ensuring that the right of medical practitioners and staff to decline to participate in a pregnancy termination for reasons of conscience is protected.