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Sydney bishop slams ALP abortion policy

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Bishop Richard Umbers
Bishop Richard Umbers gives a talk at The Two Wolves Community Cantina in Broadway, on 29 March 2018. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Sydney Bishop Richard Umbers has written a scathing letter to Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek denouncing Labor’s pro-abortion policy.

The bishop wrote to the Federal opposition and deputy opposition leaders just weeks before a coalition of 60 health, legal and social justice organisations launched a campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW.

The NSW Pro-Choice Alliance includes the Human Rights Law Centre, Family Planning NSW, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and Domestic Violence NSW.

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Related article: Fury at new abortion law

In March the ALP announced that if it won the Federal election it would move to increase access to abortion in the states’ public hospitals.

“This is a service that is not required by many Australian women, but for those who need it, it’s absolutely vital,” said Ms Plibersek, also the Shadow Minister for Women.

Bishop Umbers, the Australian bishops’ delegate for life, called out Labor’s National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy for its focus on funding for contraception and abortion.

“It contains no support for women who want to reproduce, and the services available to them, nor access to alternatives to abortion within the healthcare sector,” he said.

“It is unfortunate, furthermore, that ‘reproduction’ is narrowly framed as the need to prevent or terminate a pregnancy, when reproduction encompasses a much broader range of issues and associated rights, including the right to be supported before, during and after pregnancy.”

In the 10 April letter Bishop Umbers said the policy does not address challenges faced by many women considering abortion, including financial difficulties, abusive relationships, or lack of emotional, practical or material support.

“This is simply not good enough,” he said.

“Providing women with only one option, that of terminating the life of her unborn child, can never be acceptable.

“It places pregnant women in a situation where they feel that the only way forward is to take the life of an innocent human being, an act which is, and must always be, immoral.”  In contrast, the Catholic Church stands ready to assist all women through its agencies, he added.

Family Planning NSW’s medical director Deborah Bateson said women should be able to access services without fear of prosecution.

“It acts as a deterrent, the laws maintains fear, shame and stigma and it puts up those barriers when this is a decision a woman is making about her own body,” she said.

Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek did not respond to requests for comment.

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