Props to the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne! The Bendigo Advertiser reports that they have put in their submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission‘s examination of the possible decriminalisation of abortion.
And the Church is in favour.
An all-woman taskforce from the state capital’s diocese has made a submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, which is reviewing abortion laws.
In it, the taskforce has said abortion remains a serious moral issue, but it should not remain a matter for criminal law.
“In our view, public acceptance of the reality of abortion, including acceptance of the practice among women of diverse religious communities, indicates that a change in the law is timely.”
At least some Church leaders in Victoria have responded positively to the submission, citing the risks of illegal abortion and the need to “stand in the shoes” of women with unwanted pregnancies or who are making the decision for medical reasons.
In an encouraging move from a feminist point of view, the Archbishop appointed an all-woman panel to prepare this submission. From the Age:
The seven-woman committee — including an obstetrician, a medical ethicist and a theologian — was appointed by Archbishop Philip Freier, “who felt men had said enough”, one member said.
The submission went a little further than just citing back-alley abortions as a reason to decriminalise:
From a theological perspective, there are three main positions presented in relation to unborn life as human life. One is the absolutist position which argues that human life begins at the moment of conception. Although some individual Anglicans may hold this view, it is neither taught by the Anglican Church nor are members required to hold this view. At the other extreme is the pro-choice perspective that says women can do what they like with their own bodies. Our consensus view is the gradualist position which argues that while the embryo/foetus is fully human from the time of conception, it accrues moral significance and value as it develops.
While we believe that the destruction even of an early embryo is of moral significance, we believe the moral significance increases with the age and development of the foetus. The significance increases gradually over time, in parallel with its physical development. As a pregnancy advances, more powerful moral reasons are required to allow the destruction of the embryo/foetus. It is more serious to consider destroying a foetus at 28 weeks than at 10 weeks. We would want to see this distinction noted in any legislative provisions, though we would counsel against a legislated absolutist end-point after which an abortion could not proceed.
The panel accepted that if a practitioner refuses to perform or assist in termination of pregnancy, they should be required to refer the woman to someone who does. They also asserted the necessity for increased availability of contraception, with attention paid not just to information and education but also to affordability.
Yes, I’m picking out the good bits, because I’m feeling positive today. There are bits in the submission that set my pro-choice teeth on edge, but I’ll leave you to discover them for yourself. The full text of the submission can be downloaded from the Diocese website.
Now, I subscribe to the wholly pro-choice perspective that the Church rejects, but I still can’t help thinking that this submission has the potential to facilitate huge steps forward. The Anglican Church is one of the big three Christian churches in Australia – Anglican, Catholic, Uniting – and this leaves the door open for even orthodox Anglicans to move away from an absolutist forced-birth position.
The Uniting Church didn’t prepare a submission for the Commission. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne continues to oppose women’s reproductive rights wholeheartedly.