Under Western Australia law, abortions may only be performed when the mother's life is in danger, and an illegal procurement carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. Dr. Victor Chan, who operates one of Perth's largest abortion clinics, and an unidentified anesthetist have been ordered to appear in court next week on the charges.
Several doctors have been charged with performing illegal abortions in recent weeks marking a new period of strong enforcement of the law. The Australian Medical Association said they had been told by state officials that it was only a matter of time before someone was charged. The Catholic Doctors' Association estimates less than half of one per cent of the 9,500 abortions performed each year in Western Australia comply with the strict letter of the law which permits abortions only to save women's lives, even in cases of rape and incest.
Meanwhile, in San Juan, Puerto Rico Pro-life advocates declared victory on Friday in a long-running legal battle with Puerto Rico's abortion clinics over protests held in front of the clinics.
The island's abortion clinics in January 1993 filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against Father Richard Welsh, president of Human Life International, and other pro-life leaders. After a year in which the defendants refused to settle the case despite long negotiations, the abortionists dropped their case last week after coming to an agreement with the demonstrators that they would notify the clinics before any future protests.
Father Welch said he has always provided notice of his pro-life activities in order to make people aware of the horrors of abortion. He said he "welcomed abortionists and pro-abortion supporters at pro-life demonstrations because many of them have been converted through their contact with the pro-lifers." He also noted that when that is not the case, "the ugly confrontations staged by pro-abortion supporters against prayerful pro-lifers clearly illustrates the contrast between the culture of life and the culture of death."
While in Lisbon, Portugal's ruling Socialist Party agreed on Friday to hold a referendum on a new law that legalizes abortion on demand in the first weeks of pregnancy.
The Social Democrat Party opposed the changes pushed through by the Socialists and its partner, the Communist Party, and agreement on the vote was approved just 24 hours after the law was passed. The controversial law allows abortions virtually on demand in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy provided only that the mother attend a national counseling center. The previous law had outlawed abortion except when the mother's life was in danger.
Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, a practicing Catholic, has repeatedly stated his opposition to abortion, and political analysts said that Guterres saw little to lose in agreeing to put the issue to a popular vote, even if it angered the more radical leftists. The law would be voided if the popular vote went against it in the referendum likely to be held in mid-June.
And finally, in Murphy, South Carolina, Federal agents searched an abandoned farmhouse on Monday near the location where they found a pickup truck belonging to a man wanted as a witness in an abortion clinic bombing two weeks ago.
Eric Robert Rudolph's 1989 gray Nissan truck was discovered Saturday night in woods outside Murphy, North Carolina by hunters, said Jim Cavanaugh, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Authorities today said the truck appeared to have been abandoned after it got stuck. They said they didn't know how long it had been there.
Rudolph is not yet a suspect in the bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, but is officially wanted on a material witness warrant. Witnesses to the blast that killed an off-duty policeman said they saw the truck near the clinic following the explosion.