Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP welcomed the defeat of legislation in the Senate which would have given Australia’s territories the power to legalise euthanasia.
That the defeat came on a major Marian feast – the Feast of the Assumption – meant he felt certain that Mary had also been praying in heaven for the result, he said.
The push failed on Wednesday evening by the slimmest of majorities, 36-34 votes.
“Thanks be to God; the Senate has just voted 36-34 against a bill that would have paved the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide in the territories,” Archbishop Fisher said shortly after being informed of the result.
“That the vote was so close shows the importance of each and every voice in building a civilisation of life, love and true dignity for the dying, and the need for us to continue to pray for our political leaders.”
“Today’s Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady today affirms our great hope; that there is more ahead of us than mental decline and physical decay. There is a firm promise of salvation for all flesh that yearns for redemption. I know that Our Lady, assumed body and soul into heaven, was praying for this result. May she continue to intercede for us.”
The proposed law had been put to the Senate by NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm, a Liberal Democrat.
However on Wednesday the Bill was denied a second reading, effectively defeating its progress through Australia’s Federal parliament.
Parliamentary supporters and opponents always knew the vote was going to be close, although supporters had believed they were on-track to score a narrow win.
Although the populations of Australia’s territories are relatively small compared to its states, opponents feared passage of the Bill through the Parliament would act as a powerful aid to euthanasia’s legalisation throughout the rest of the country, especially following Victoria’s legalisation of the practice in October last year.
After the vote, the Australian Christian Lobby thanked all senators who voted to preserve the dignity of life in the vote.
“It is great to hear that the senate has upheld the dignity of life for all Australian,” said ACL managing director Martyn Iles.
“We know from international experiences that euthanasia is a slippery slope which leads to cases like in Belgium recently where a nine-year-old with a brain tumour and an eleven-year-old with cystic fibrosis were euthanised.
“The inherent value of every life must continue to be maintained. Australia must not become the kind of society where some lives were considered worthier of life than others.”
With the vote, ACL, one of the major opponents of the legislation, is more optimistic the decision will positively influence outcomes in other states on the issue.
While the vote appeared to be likely to favour euthanasia’s supporters in the Senate, a small number of key votes changed in the final days leading up to the debate.
Senator Peter Georgiou, a One Nation senator from Western Australia, was one of two senators who changed their position in the final hours before the vote.
He told media that since meeting a group of doctors strongly opposed to euthanasia earlier in the week he had been forced to consider the problem of safeguards to prevent the practice spreading from not only the terminally ill but widening to others such as the depressed.
He suggested the Victorian legislation passed last October did not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent its effective abuse.
Meanwhile, he said, palliative care appeared to have effectively fallen off the radar throughout the debate.