December 3rd 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: HIGHER EDUCATION: Top university accused of elitism

EDITORIAL: Trade talks: smoke and mirrors

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Workplace changes set to change societal fabric

SCHOOLS: Vouchers for schools - giving parents choice

PRIMARY PRODUCTION: Advantages of single-desk for Australian wheat

SUGAR DEREGULATION: Beattie to abolish single selling-desk

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Working women and pensions / One hand washes another: European-style / Those were the days, my friend / The burning Bush

ABORTION PILL: Part of the disease, not part of the cure

OPINION: The difficult dilemma of Australia's Muslims

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Why North Korea got one more chance

CULTURE AND SOCIETY: Great Russian writers on the riddle of humanity

CINEMA: Three Australian films fall flat: The Proposition, Jewboy and Little Fish

BOOKS: The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge, by Nic Dunlop

BOOKS: Victoria Cross: Australia's Finest and the Battles They Fought, by Anthony Staunton

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Part of the disease, not part of the cure

by Dr David van Gend

News Weekly, December 3, 2005
The abortion pill RU-486 may be more traumatic for women than surgical abortion under anaesthetic, warns medical practitioner Dr David van Gend.

The abortion pill RU-486 is both a symbol of the brutalisation of a beautiful culture which once cherished the life between mother and baby, and a direct contributor to that culture's demographic demise.

Demography is an unsentimental science, and tells us bluntly that the future does not belong to those who kill their young. The demographic dying of Europe is in the news, focused on France, but so is the proudly French method of contributing to that demise - RU-486.

France, like Australia, aborts every fourth or fifth baby, but France has a large Muslim population that rejects abortion and affirms family, such that the 10 per cent of Muslim women in Paris are having 50 per cent of the babies.

Western decadence

The future belongs to them - and good luck to them, if they believe their culture is beautiful and worth preserving, and that their babies are not for killing. They have good reason to reject the decadence and desecrations of the West, crystallised so symbolically in the French abortion pill.

European civilisation was arguably founded on one dominant image, artistically, theologically and in popular sentiment: that of mother and child. This deep tap-root nourished the sense of the sacredness of the life between mother and baby, and the sanctity of all human life.

Now consider the signs of cultural root-rot revealed during last week's debate on RU-486, in two of the great institutions of our culture - the Parliament, and the medical profession.

In the past, medicines to procure abortion - like concoctions of rue and tansy - were the traditional business of brothel madams and medieval hags.

Today we see eloquent women promoting in Parliament this poisoning of our unwanted young, blind to the moral violence of abortion, talking only of reproductive rights and equity.

This cultural degradation is an example of what Robert Manne calls "a slow and subtle transformation of ethical sensibility".

"Over time," he has warned, "we become blind to how we once thought and what we once valued. We become accustomed or attracted to thoughts we would once have found unthinkable."

The same callousing process is evident in the medical profession. In the aftermath of the Nazi corruption of medical practice, the World Medical Association issued the Oath of Geneva (1948), a vigorous reaffirmation of moral standards in medicine. It included the statement: "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception."

But even our own Australian Medical Association seems indifferent now to these youngest members of the human family.

AMA President Dr Mukesh Haikerwal voiced support for RU-486, not on authentic medical grounds, but on the ideological grounds of "increasing choice" (ABC Radio, November 8, 2005), merely adding another dish to the smorgasbord of social abortion.

The contribution of the AMA should be to define any medical grounds where abortion is truly necessary, not social abortion on grounds of "increasing choice". Having done that, the AMA can then advise Government on why RU-486 may be a preferred technique for such a medically necessary abortion.

Such medical proposals are within the authority of the AMA. Proposals employing the political language of the "pro-choice" movement are not.

Above all, the AMA should use its expertise to assist Government with current policy proposals for pregnancy support, and so give women real choice to avoid unwanted abortion - not just the soul-destroying choice between a knife and a poison.

In profound ways, the poison method may be worse for women. With standard surgical abortion the mother avoids the trauma of seeing what she has done; she can be asleep at the time.

But, with RU-486, the woman will be vividly aware of the whole abortion process, swallowing the poison herself, acting out a mockery of labour where every spasm speaks of death not life, and wide awake at the time of delivery of her dead offspring. Surely this "choice" is a recipe for nightmares.

Why are we so pitiless that we promote this, in Liberal MP Sharman Stone's words, as "beneficial to thousands of women and girls"?

A place of death

Beneficial to the female psyche to create a place of death in her body where there should be a place of life? So that for years, like some, she wakes in the night hearing a baby cry, or places flowers on another baby's grave because there is no place to grieve for her own?

The current social task is not to find new ways of killing our young in their sleep - we already do that surgically to the equivalent of an entire primary school of children every day - but to find effective ways of supporting distressed pregnant women.

The current policy task with RU-486 is to identify any true medical scenario - if it exists - where abortion is essential, and where this method is superior.

Otherwise, a pill designed purely to poison socially-unwanted offspring has no place in government policy or medical practice.

For Australia, if any government health minister were to approve its general use "on demand", RU-486 would be part of the disease, not part of the cure.

  • Dr David van Gend practices medicine in Toowoomba and is Queensland secretary of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life.

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