A Catholic Church archbishop has compared proposed laws to decriminalise abortion in Queensland, Australia, to the eugenics program carried out in Nazi Germany.
Brisbane archbishop Mark Coleridge told The Courier Mail he's worried women will have later term abortions, and use abortion for gender selection and for cosmetic reasons, if proposed changes to abortion laws in Queensland go ahead.
Unlike most other Australian states, abortion remains a crime in Queensland and is only legal if performed to “prevent serious danger to the woman’s physical or mental health”.
Under the proposed changes, put forward by independent Cairns MP Rob Pyne, abortion would become more accessible up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy. After 24 weeks, pregnant women could still have an abortion if their doctors reasonably believed continuing the pregnancy would involve greater risk of physical or mental injury than if it was terminated.
Pointing to China, the archbishop said he fears abortions would be undertaken in Queensland for gender selection, and by women "worried about their figure".
Coleridge also suggested later term terminations would be used on fetuses with a disability.
“The classic term for it is eugenics. It is the kind of thing that went on in Nazi Germany," he said.
The archbishop questioned the moral judgement of Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and deputy premier Jackie Trad, who are both Catholic. Trad has been vocal in her support for the decriminalisation of abortion.
"It would seem to me that to be a protagonist to this type of legislation is very hard to reconcile with anything that resembles true Catholic faith," he said.
“I think a government that is very strongly opposed to domestic violence but strongly in favour of greater access to abortion has a kind of a contradiction at its heart.
“It’s a contradiction and probably is hypocrisy.”
Hundreds gathered at a protest outside Queensland parliament on Saturday to protest abortion decriminalisation.
One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts told the rally the proposed laws were "the most dangerous abortion legislation in the Western world" that would wreak havoc on expectant mums, babies and Australia's legal and health systems.
It is a myth that later term abortions are common, or make up a statistically significant portion of terminations in Australia.
A later term abortion is performed at or after 24 weeks gestation. The most recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show 0.7% of abortions were carried out at or after 20 weeks. Nearly 95% take place during the first trimester before 13 weeks.
In a Facebook post Trad said it's a "new low" for the Catholic Church to compare women who have abortions to Nazis.
Trad said she had been pro-choice her whole life.
"I am a Catholic but I’m also a woman and I simply disagree with the Church’s views on a woman’s right to choose," she said.
Debate on the abortion bill will begin in Queensland parliament on March 1.
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
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