August 14th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Foreign Minister launches Paul Gray's new book on Islam

EDITORIAL: Australia and the Timor Gap Treaty

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Latham loses lustre as poll looms


RURAL POLICY: Facing up to the farm income crisis

UNITED STATES: Transsexual case and marriage law

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Pakistan and the Islamic N-bomb

POPULATION: 'Gender equality' partly to blame for fertility decline, says UN official

DOCUMENTARY: 'My Foetus' prompts abortion re-think

OPINION: US law professor blasts US court on gay marriage

OPINION: Distributism and capitalism

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Part-timers: pros and cons / Family Law changes / Timor's Labor pain

Latham, Iraq and free trade deal (letter)

Fishermen protest in marginal seats (letter)

Ethanol stand challenged (letter)

BOOKS: The Red Millionaire: Willi Münzenberg, by Sean McMeekin

BOOKS: GETTING ON TRACK: A Business Plan for Australia

BOOKS: Just War Against Terror, by Jean Bethke Elshtain

BOOKS: The Mystery of Olga Chekhova, by Anthony Beevor

Books promotion page

'My Foetus' prompts abortion re-think

by Dr David van Gend

News Weekly, August 14, 2004
I first saw my son, Robert, on ultrasound at 13 weeks. We watched him stir and put his hand to his cheek, as he still does in his sleep.

The most beautiful images in Julia Black's grim film, My Foetus, were achieved with revolutionary 3D ultrasound technology.

To watch a baby at 12 weeks doing a two-footed jump, little arms pumping, was as astounding as the other famous two-footed jump by Neil Armstrong on the moon.

For technology to have shed such light on the dark side of the womb is, once more, a giant leap for mankind.

I am confident that parents who, in ignorance, take their offspring to be aborted, would think again when they see their tiny child in such glorious detail, alive and beautiful and busy.

Julia Black herself, who supports abortion and whose father heads a multinational abortion company, comments: "If anything could persuade me that destroying a foetus is perhaps wrong, it is this technology".


In the film, we view Professor Stuart Campbell's exquisite ultrasound images - some of which he has displayed at (then click on the Photo Gallery banner).

He tells Black that his views on abortion have been changed, and he now feels twelve weeks should be the upper limit for social abortion.

Reviewing Black's film, leading feminist Naomi Wolf observes that "At 12 weeks a pregnant woman can already see her foetus's resemblance to its father or mother." She too retreats from the practice of late abortion, which she calls "a terrible act", and argues that "the limit should be about three months. After that, rather than abortion, a network of supportive adoption agencies should be on hand to help and sustain the pregnant woman and her baby."

Civility seems to be breaking out in the abortion wars. Black's documentary is respectful of both sides, and she comments, "I was impressed by the sincerity and conviction of the anti-abortion people I talked to."

Wolf reports, "I was amazed to discover, when I actually listened to anti-abortion activists instead of demonising them, how much common ground both sides had."

This common ground includes concern for women who have abortions because they feel there is no support from boyfriend or parents or school or society - women who know nothing of Wolf's "network of supportive adoption agencies"; women who surrender, in Germaine Greer's phrase, to "the last non-choice in a long list of non-choices", and then suffer the cruel emotional consequences of having created a place of death within their own bodies.

There is also a common revulsion for the "terrible act" of late abortion, which is indistinguishable from infanticide - being performed on babies even older than those in our hospital nurseries - and is only distinguished from murder by a technicality.

My Foetus will screen precisely on the tenth anniversary of the revelation of commercial late-term abortion practices in Queensland, where even entirely healthy babies of entirely healthy mothers are killed by the unspeakable method of "cranial decompression".

The partly-delivered premmie baby has no pain relief as scissors are stabbed through its head and the skull crushed.

If our morally bankrupt society can still raise the passion to condemn something as "evil" (not merely "inappropriate"), this is the occasion. Black's film fails to do so. She interviews late-term abortionist, Dr John Parsons, who agrees that it is "not nice" to see "dismembered pieces of foetus falling into a bucket between my legs".

Nevertheless, he will do this to a baby, who could at that age be given alive to the paediatrician, if he feels the child is "seriously not wanted".

The public would support a ban on late abortions, and on early "social" abortions, if it were not for the paralysing effect of the abortion lobby's trump card: "the injuries and deaths associated with back-street abortions", as Black puts it.

No matter how shocked people are at the cruel killing of babies, they are equally shocked at the image of women dying at the hands of backyard butchers.

In fact, this trump card is merely a conjurer's card, a clever deception. Contrary to popular illusion, legalising abortion was so trivial an element in improving women's safety that it does not show up in the historical record.

All reduction in deaths from abortion last century was achieved by medical advances alone - antibiotics, transfusions, surgical advances - predating any change in legal status.

The nightmare scenario of women dying in droves in the backyard is simply not possible in a post-antibiotic world, and should not be used to terrify public debate.

  • Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba GP and Queensland secretary for the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life.

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