Live the Gospel of Life Down Under

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
6 October 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 39
Reproduced with Permission

America is not the only country witnessing progress on the life issue. Australia's government may be edging toward addressing abortion, at least in small ways, and has certainly adopted some pro-family policies. A Family Life International (FLI) conference called "Be Not Afraid to Live the Gospel of Life," held in Melbourne, Australia, September 16-18, provided an opportunity for speakers and about 200 attendees from around the globe to spread the Culture of Life in that part of the world.

"We were celebrating the 10th anniversary of John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae," said Gail Instance, director of FLI-Australia. PRI President Steve Mosher made his second trip Down Under this year in order to speak at the conference and to shoot an EWTN show on Australia's hideously high abortion rate. Some filming took place outside Melbourne's so-called Fertility Control Clinic, where 300,000 children have lost their lives since 1970.

Said Instance, "The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has established a task force, looking into Australia's high abortion rate and seeking ways to reduce it. Catholic Respect Life offices have been set up in three dioceses in recent years - Sydney, Perth and Melbourne - and Centacare in Sydney, a Catholic family welfare center, is now running a pregnancy support unit at the request of Cardinal George Pell [of Sydney]."

Australia has a low birthrate and a high abortion rate, and the combination is killing the country as it is in so many other Western nations. "Contraception was accepted very quickly here in the '60's and by the time Humanae Vitae was issued, our bishops, for the most part, were prepared to follow the lead of their Anglican counterparts of the '30's and they failed to uphold the Catholic Church's teaching against artificial birth control," said Instance. "Without the strong leadership of our bishops and priests, Catholics were left to make up their own minds about most things pertaining to sex. . . . The Family Planning Associations (FPAs) in Australia have had a very easy ride, courtesy of the taxpayer, since the early '70's."

Australia, with 21 million people, has about 100,000 abortions per year. Prime Minister John Howard, a strong ally of the United States and President Bush, has helped move the debate over family and abortion in the right direction. "John Howard's coalition government, Liberals and Nationals, is not committed to abortion as the Labor Party is, and has introduced some family-friendly policies, such as the baby bonus of $3,000, and they have increased family allowances and allowed open discussion of the abortion issue in the parliament," Instance said. Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott criticizes Australia's high abortion rate, but "in the meantime, our foreign ministry is funding 'sexual and reproductive health' programs in our region through AusAID, and state and federal governments all fund FPAs' activities within Australia," she said.

Most abortions in Australia are subsidized by taxpayers. Pro-life National Party Sen. Ron Boswell has led the way in making abortion a live issue in the Australian parliament. More government funding for crisis pregnancy centers - which are few and far between in Australia and nearby New Zealand, which has only the one run by the director of FLI-New Zealand - is a possibility.

"The federal government funds pro-life pregnancy counseling services to the tune of $250,000 per year," Instance said. "There are calls for the government to fund 'independent' counseling services but that's what FPA centers have been claiming to be for the past 35 years." Sen. Boswell told PRI's Steve Mosher that parliamentary leaders have agreed to appropriate $18 million for abortion alternatives.

Maybe our government, supposedly controlled by a pro-life President and a pro-life Republican Congress, should consider something similar. Maybe some of the money Congress sends the way of Planned Parenthood and its ilk should be redirected to crisis pregnancy centers, if it can't be eliminated entirely.

It's going to be a long, uphill struggle to re-establish a Culture of Life in Australia as in anywhere else. Fortunately - in addition to the ones in the highest places - FLI now has allies in high places.