July 2nd 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Unanswered questions about the Chinese defectors

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Senator Brian Harradine retires

EDITORIAL: How best to help our children

TRADE: 'Benign neglect' no answer to debt crisis

RURAL POLICY: Water trade to shift water from farms to cities

QUARANTINE: Government appeals against court ruling

TASMANIA: Potato-farmers' outrage at fast-food giant

ABORTION: Feminist luddites of the abortion lobby

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Christianity under threat in Sri Lanka

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: East Timor in grip of major famine

ENERGY: China exchanges nuclear technology for Iranian oil

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The improvident society / A pub with no beer / Beazley's tax strategy / To Hell and back

Europe's malaise (letter)

Colin Teese on Europe (letter)

Strategy to prevent bushfires (letter)

Big Brother: sewage on TV (letter)

Child support reforms (letter)

BOOKS: GAY MARRIAGE: Why it is good for gays, good for straights, and good for America

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Feminist luddites of the abortion lobby

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, July 2, 2005
Pro-abortion lobbyists refuse to acknowledge that advanced in medicine have largely eliminated "health" reasons for abortion, writes Babette Francis.

For those unfamiliar with English history, the Luddites were a group of early 19th-century anti-machinery protestors. They feared that the introduction of machines during the industrial revolution would deprive them of jobs. More recently, the term "luddite" has been applied to those who are resistant - and often resentful - of progress in general.

I cannot think of a more appropriate term to describe the contemporary pro-abortion lobby. Whether it be federal parliament's feminist MPs (of all parties: Coalition, ALP, Greens and Democrats), or the self-styled "women's health" coalitions and collectives (many of them funded by taxpayers) - when it comes to problems associated with abortion, they all appear fossilised in the debates of the 1970s.

These pro-abortion groups resent the emergence of new debates on the issue, although they would consider it "undemocratic" if debate on other matters were stifled just because these issues had been debated 30 or 40 years ago.

The present-day luddites have objected to the National Party's Senator Ron Boswell raising questions in parliament - questions designed to elicit specific information on the annual number and reasons for abortions in Australia. Specious charges of "invasion of privacy" have been made, as if Senator Boswell was seeking information identifying individual women.

When the horrifying figure of 91,000 annual abortions was finally elicited from the Health Department, another furphy was raised. Claims were made that this figure might include routine curettes done after natural miscarriages, or the extraction of a foetus who had already died.

All one can say is that if a doctor cannot distinguish between the abortion of a living foetus and a curette after a miscarriage, he should not be practising medicine. Memo to the abortion lobby: it is possible to hear the heartbeat of a live foetus - and have you heard of ultrasound imaging? That can tell you if you really didn't know, whether the foetus is alive or has died.

The newsletter of Women's Health Goulburn North East is a typical example of the censorship the pro-abortion lobby tries to exert. This group claims that "women's health is being put at risk by the current debate on abortion" (Wangaratta Chronicle, April 8, 2005).

How can "debate" be dangerous when we live in a democracy and are free to accept or reject any debated viewpoint? Censorship is all too apparent in feminist opposition to women considering abortion being shown ultrasound images of their foetuses in utero. Feminists fear that women, given enough information, will choose not to abort.

Misleading claim

Another misleading claim by this particular women's health group is that restrictions on abortion will endanger women's lives. Making abortion legal or illegal has never, historically, made the slightest difference to the safety of women. This is because medicine alone, not the law, has achieved all the gains in maternal safety.

These gains were made by medical breakthroughs such as the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, blood transfusion, improved surgical techniques and emergency services, and were achieved before there was a single liberal law or "safe legal clinic". Women's Health Goulburn North East appears fossilised in some pre-antibiotic, pre-blood transfusions era.

According to figures obtained by Queensland's Dr David van Gend, through studying the entire Australian Bureau of Statistics data on Causes of Death 1906-1996, the death rate for illegal abortions plummetted from about 100 deaths every year in the 1930s (before antibiotics) to just one death in the whole of Australia in 1969 (the last year of the old "backyard" abortion regime). And this was before there was a single "legal" abortion anywhere in the country.

All this was thanks to medical advances alone, with the legal status of abortion unchanged and irrelevant. It is also noteworthy that maternal deaths from all causes - childbirth, miscarriage and abortion - dropped exactly in parallel, for the same medical reasons. Abortion deaths have always been about one fifth of total maternal deaths.

Eire, where abortion is illegal, has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world. The experience in Poland is similar. Lech Kowalewski of Human Life International reports: "Since the law was changed to prohibit abortion for social reasons, there has been just one death from illegal abortion, meaning that pro-life Poland has fewer abortion deaths than countries such as Lithuania where abortion is legal."

The cause of women is not furthered by stifling debate on abortion or by misleading data published by those allegedly concerned about "women's health". It would be more honest if the pro-abortion lobbyists admitted medical progress has eliminated "health" reasons for abortion, and that most abortions are done for socio-economic reasons.

Pro-abortion lobbyists claim that abortion is a "sad" choice women are forced to make. One wonders why feminists with real power, such as those in the party that has governed Australia for the past nine years - namely MHRs Julie Bishop, Sharman Stone, Joanna Gash, Teresa Gambaro and Senators Marise Payne, Jeannie Ferris and Judith Troeth - are among those objecting to the airing of the abortion issue.

They have not even considered the option of initiating financial or other programs so that women will not have to make the "sad" choice of option but can choose a happier outcome.

  • Babette Francis is coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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