The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants (HoGPI) was founded in 1989 by New York Catholic priest Phillip Reilly. In an interview with The Catholic Weekly in August 2008, Reilly describes how he campaigned against the legalization of abortion since the 1960s, but failed to in attempts to first prevent, and then repeal, the decriminalization of abortion.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Rielly and other opponents of women’s rights, frustrated in their attempts to achieve legislative change, moved to picketing specific clinics where abortions were performed.
Since 1989 Reilly has toured the world attempting to establish other groups that would duplicate his methods.
In Australia and in Albury, HoGPI have received support from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. In Melbourne, Archbishop Dennis Hart has dedicated mass to the HoGPI, in Albury a link to their local campaign website is prominent on the St Patrick’s Parish website and clergy are reguarly seen at their picket.
HoGPI are a campaign from within the Catholic Church, but it should be noted that their absolute opposition to abortion in all circumstances is not a position shared by the majority of Catholics.
Across all major religions in Australia, the majority of people support a woman’s right to choose an abortion in at least some circumstances.
From “Attitudes to Abortion in Australia: 1972 to 2003“, by Dr Katherine Betts in People and Place volume 12, no.4, 2004:
Members of the main non-Christian religions have similar attitudes to the sample as a whole, as do Anglicans, members of the Uniting Church, and Presbyterians. But relatively speaking, Catholics are less pro-choice than the sample as a whole. Nonetheless, 72 per cent of Catholics are pro-choice and only 15 per cent favour restriction. It is the subgroup of evangelical protestants (Baptists, Lutherans and Pentecostalists) who are most likely to favour restriction but, even here, more of them favour choice than restriction.
The absolute opponents of a woman’s right to choose are just a noisy minority, even within the religious organisations that sponsor them. Unfortunately their dogmatic belief that abortion is wrong in all circumstances leads them to try and impose these beliefs on others, and as a result we see intimidation and harassment at fertility control clinics like the one in Englehardt Street.
Murphy is by all accounts a conservative fundamentalist. In the past Murphy has campaigned against homosexuality, and the establishment of a strip club in Albury. His 2009 blog Holy Spirit Homilies prominently advertises anti-gay websites and organisations.
Murphy is the author of Pure Attraction: A guide to human sexuality, described by the publisher as “an attempt to exemplify the beauty and meaning of purity”.
It is interesting to note Murphy’s focus on “moral issues” campaigns in light of his advocacy within the Catholic church for a return to “door to door visitation“.
Roland Von Marburg
Albury Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist Roland Von Marburg provides significant support to HoGPI in Albury. During 2011 he regularly appeared outside the clinic in Engelhardt Street. Marburg tries to use his status as a medical practitioner to intervene in public debates on the side of religious fundamentalism.
In this flyer for a 2011 talk in Albury, he is described rather grandly as a “specialist surgeon”.
But Roland von Marburg is not a specialist in any field related to women’s health, fertility, pregnancy or children. He is an Ear Nose and Throat specialist.
In 2003 this is what the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria had to say about Roland von Marburg’s practice as an ENT:
Pursuant to s. 45(A)(2)(c) of the Medical Practice Act 1994 (as amended) the Panel
reprimands Mr Von Marburg for: failing to exercise care and skill in applying bandages to his
patients’ head that were too tight; failing to provide his patients an appropriate post-operative
management plan; failing to appreciate and respond to the post-operative pain experienced
by his patients and failing to appreciate the post-operative complications and respond to
them by appropriate referral.
The full judgement can be read here, it makes for damning reading.
Roland von Marburg’s practice as an Ear Nose and Throat specialist remains subject to a number of conditions.
Dr Von Marburg must not prescribe, possess, supply, administer, handle or dispense any drug of addiction
Registration is also subject to conditions that relate to personal health. These conditions are not publicly available due to privacy considerations.
On 15 May 2012 the NSW Medical Tribunal stated that Dr Roland Von Marburg:
- self administered pethidine between about April 2008 and August 2008
- failed to keep a drug register recording his receipt, supply and administration of pethidine and morphine
- destroyed a schedule 8 drug of addiction in contravention of regulations
- falsely stated to Pharmaceutical Services Branch of NSW Health that he had not self-administered pethidine
- failed to make a proper records in relation to certain patients and in accordance with regulations
- administered pethidine to patients without exercising responsible medical judgement as to whether this was appropriate in the circumstances and in a quantity that did not accord with the recognised therapeutic standard and retained left over amounts of pethidine for his own use.
See also: 24 May 2012, Border Mail: Doctor craved ‘euphoric drug’.
None of this changes the fact that Roland von Marburg is entitled to an opinion as a private citizen. But when it comes to lecturing on the issue of abortion, von Marburg is acting outside his area of expertise. His fundamentalist views should be given no greater credence simply because of his (questionable) status as a medical practitioner.