CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 June 2017

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Sydney sees biggest ever petition to parliament

SYDNEY (SE): Members of the Legislative Council (upper house) in the state parliament of New South Wales in Australia sat in silence as a history-making petition was tabled by Labour member, Greg Donnelly.
 
The petition, bearing 55,559 signatures, was tabled in opposition to an Abortion Law Reform Bill filed and authored by the Greens Party member, Mehreen Faruqi.
 
The bill seeks to “repeal offences relating to abortion, to specify a ground of unsatisfactory professional conduct by a medical practitioner with respect to abortion and to establish exclusion zones in order to prohibit certain behaviour near premises at which abortions are provided.”
 
Donnelly is a Catholic with a background in the trade union movement. Life issues, genetics and biotechnology, as well as economic development, drugs, children and young people and public health are among his areas of expertise.

LifeSiteNews reported an audible gasp in the chamber when Donnelly announced the number of signatures contained in the petition which were carried into the chamber by clerks in large document boxes, before rising to explain the contents.
 
It added that some members even looked away from their phones to watch him as he spoke!
 
People in the gallery later described it as a “truly Wilberforce moment” as the chamber remained silent while Donnelly read out the content of the petition.
 
The record number of signatures were collected in less than two weeks by Rebecca Gosper, from Youth for Life.
 
A university student enrolled in a human sciences course, Gosper said that together with a few friends she created a Facebook page targeting a dozen or so parishes, but the petition went viral and ended up being supported by around 160 parishes in various denominations around the state.
 
However, she stressed that contrary to what critics of her campaign like to claim, the signatures collected did not all come from Churches.
 
“People were really receptive in that regard and were keen to do something practical to make a difference in New South Wales,” Gosper pointed out.
 
She explained that 48 hours before she and her friends were due to visit a few parishes, she was flooded with messages from volunteers offering to collect signatures from a wide variety of groups; from sports clubs, university campuses, business workplaces and street corners.
 
She said that it took her a straight 18 hours just to keep on top of the messages and coordinate the flood of volunteers.
 
At the end of the weekend, she said that she was expecting to get about 20,000 signatures, but as the hours went on she had to revise it to between 30,000 or 40,000.
 
Just two hours before deadline, Gosper said that she received a text from a volunteer saying they had 49,000 signatures, in addition to the ones that had been dropped off directly at Parliament House which still had to be accounted for.
 
Although Gosper says that at first she was irritated by the short amount of time available to complete the petition, people found the short deadline challenging and she believes it is amazing to see how well they responded.
 
Faruqi’s bill is not expected to be passed and even normally pro-abortion members are expected to vote against it, as it is regarded as being too far out in left field and extreme in its nature.
 
The clause about creating an exclusion zone around abortion sites would directly attack an annual vigil that anti-abortion groups stage annually during Lent, which could also be seen as an infringement on freedom of speech, since the groups do not cause any disruption to the normal daily flow of traffic or pedestrian access.

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