SYDNEY CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP PRESSER
A leading Jewish rabbi has linked a bill to decriminalise abortions in NSW to the reported death of a South Korean baby, who was allegedly left alone for a week while her parents were drinking and playing computer games.
Nochum Schapiro, president of the Rabbinical Council of Australia, was among a group of religious leaders on Wednesday to front a state parliamentary inquiry into the draft laws, which passed the lower house last week.
The private member's bill allows terminations up to 22 weeks, as well as later abortions if two doctors considering all the circumstances agree the termination should occur.
Rabbi Schapiro said the draft legislation was written in a way that allows for abortions "for whatever reason the parents want".
"Anyone would be appalled, when you read a headline like I saw, a seven-month-old baby died after her parents allegedly left her alone for a week while they drank and played computer games," he told the public hearing.
"This bill would allow in extremities, people to abort to be able to do things of that nature - that is unconscionable."
He later clarified he was not saying women decide to have abortions because of "playing video games" but was referring to a South Korean news article in June where parents neglected a baby to do so.
"What I'm saying is, that at the extremities, if you allow something carte blanche, you will have people doing things that we all are appalled with."
The hearing was told church leaders had met on Sunday and agreed to push for a six-month delay to the final vote on the bill to allow more consultation.
Sydney's Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher told the hearing the Crimes Act was only used to prosecute "abhorrent cases of very negligent and harmful abortionists" and so "no one need fear this may be used to persecute women".
"That it remains in the Crimes Act is a statement that we do value human life in its origins and right up to birth and mothers when they're pregnant," he said.
Archbishop Fisher claimed the bill "co-opts all medical professionals into the abortion industry" by requiring practitioners to either perform abortions or refer women to someone else who can assist.
Sydney's Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies said he didn't have an issue with decriminalising abortion but suggested the bill would "open the flood gates for abortion for any reason whatsoever".
He believes the community doesn't fully understand the details of the changes, nor do some MPs.
The hearing also heard from representatives from Sydney's Coptic Orthodox church and Maronite Catholic church. Both denominations oppose the bill.
The religious leaders - along with representatives of Australian Christian Lobby, Right to Life NSW and Australian Family Association who also gave evidence - say they weren't consulted prior to the bill being introduced to parliament.
Thousands of people have made submissions to the upper house committee examining the private member's bill since Friday, the hearing was told.
The inquiry will continue on Tuesday, when supporters of the bill will give evidence - including Anglican bishop Reverend Peter Stuart and Uniting Church minister Reverend Margaret Mayman.
Representatives from the NSW Pro-choice Alliance, the Australian Medical Association, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will also give evidence.
The committee must report back their findings by Tuesday.
The bill will then go to the Legislative Council for consideration and a vote.