Australia: Catholic hospitals fear government intervention

According to Australian daily The Courier Mail, Catholic hospitals down-under fear that their patients will use new anti-discrimination laws to demand abortions, vasectomies and IVF treatments that  now banned for religious reasons. It was overwhelming public rejection against the Australian government's draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination bill that forced Attorney-General Nicola Roxon re-trace her steps on January 30. Roxon has admitted her department is re-wording a contentious clause that redefines discrimination as conduct that "insults or offends.'

However, Australia's state governments and religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, are still concerned that other flaws in the draft of the 198-page legislation will trigger lawsuits for alleged discrimination.

Catholic Health, which assembles 75 hospitals, contends the bill is "confusing'' for patients. "It does give rise to the potential for vexatious claims to be made,'' Catholic Health chief executive Martin Laverty told News Ltd. "But they'd have no legal standing." He added, "We don't provide the full range of reproductive health services and we're transparent about that. To not provide the service is not to discriminate.''

The Catholic Health code of ethics bans its hospitals from providing abortions, sterilizations or contraceptive procedures, treatment for IVF or surrogate pregnancies. All of these measures are at odds with Catholic teachings on the value of human life and sexuality. Catholic Health has presented its concerns the Australian Senate committee now assessing the bill.
"To not provide a service on grounds of Catholic teaching is not to discriminate, rather it is a simple limiting of services that Catholic organizations choose to offer as fulfillment of their religious belief,'' states the paper presented to the Senate.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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