September 16th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Quarantine: time is running out

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Flogging off the last of the family silver

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Opening door to embryo experimentation

MEDIA: Time to be angry at media bias

NATIONAL SECURITY: Re-thinking our response to terrorism

STATE POLITICS: Queensland goes to the polls

PREGNANCY COUNSELLING: Pro-life pregnancy counselling in jeopardy

OPINION: Dads lost in cloud cuckold land

TAIWAN: Taiwan's latest bid to gain UN membership

EDUCATION: Can parental choice fix our schools?

SCHOOLS: Can we interest students in Australian history?

CULTURE AND CIVILISATION: Contemporary threats to Western society

OPINION: Knifed on altar of free trade

CINEMA: September 11 heroism remembered in United 93

BOOKS: RESPONSIBLE MANHOOD: Reflections on what it means to be a man, by Winston Smith

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Pro-life pregnancy counselling in jeopardy

by John Morrissey

News Weekly, September 16, 2006
Proposed new laws will disqualify many voluntary pregnancy counselling services under the innocuous-sounding pretext of transparency in advertising, writes John Morrissey.

An "obscene modern-day witch-hunt" is how volunteer workers at a Catholic pregnancy support centre have described new pregnancy counselling restrictions proposed by Australian Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja.

These comments were made in a submission to a Senate committee considering Senator Stott Despoja's proposed Transparent Advertising and Notification of Pregnancy Counselling Services Bill 2005. The Bill, if passed, would:

(a) make it an offence, carrying heavy fines, for an individual or corporation to advertise pregnancy counselling without declaring any pro-life stance and refusal to refer clients for abortion; and

(b) remove government funding from such an organisation.

The Senate committee, which reported on August 17, recommended rejection of the Bill; but a minority report - signed by Australian Democrat Senators Stott Despoja and Lyn Allison; Labor Senators Claire Moore, Ruth Webber and Carol Brown; and Greens Senator Kerry Nettle - insists that the legislation is necessary, and has also received support from Liberal Senators Judith Adams and Jeannie Ferris.

Misleading and deceptive

They complain that an alleged legal loophole, which exempts counselling groups from misleading and deceptive advertising laws, must be closed.

The persistent attacks on the pro-life movement on a number of fronts, by women senators from all parties, suggest a concerted campaign to overturn social conservative values and influence at all levels in the community.

This is why federal Health Minister Tony Abbott is so often the target of these attacks, whether they be organised around the RU-486 abortion drug, pregnancy counselling or embryonic stem-cell research. The subjects may differ, but the intention is the same, and the same pattern is observable in the United States, where cries of alarm against the "Christian Right" cloak this sort of campaign.

Senator Stott Despoja's supporters and purveyors of sympathetic propaganda can be found anywhere from Parliament to the YWCA, all the way to the glossy magazine, Marie Claire, which accuses some pregnancy counselling services of trying to "shock women into keeping the baby".

They also accuse counsellors of being "judgmental" in representing the foetus as a baby, presenting abortion as sinful, and linking it with breast cancer - all of which they reject, while claiming to approach the option of "termination" in an objective manner. However, it seems that their conception of "non-directive" counselling regarding a woman's options cuts only one way, and that the natural outcome of an "unwanted pregnancy" is abortion.

A survey of some of the major abortion-providers reveals that they are not entirely transparent about their obvious preference for abortion. Family Planning Victoria - its title alone worthy of Orwell's Nineteen Eight-Four - displays a tiny coy label of "pro choice" in the White Pages, while the closest its website goes to being explicit is a mention of "planned and unplanned pregnancy, counselling and options".

Another oxymoronic "family planning" centre offers counselling and discussion of "the full range of choices" for cases of unwanted pregnancies, then devotes the remaining 50 words of this section - and web links - to detailing the availability of facilities for abortions.

Church-sponsored and pro-life counselling groups should be under no obligation to declare themselves anti-abortion, especially since pro-abortion service-providers refuse to be equally transparent about their values.

Senator Stott Despoja's Bill, apart from being a quite blatant attack on pro-life pregnancy support services, is in itself a very deficient document.

Most pregnancy counselling is concerned with matters entirely unconnected with abortion. Do all of these services have to declare whether they are pro-life? Should they all have to declare whether they are prepared to refer expectant mothers for abortions?

Pregnancy counselling is a comprehensive and complex area, where faith-centred groups operate unashamedly for the welfare of mother and baby.

A majority of Australians believe that there are too many abortions, and this is why Health Minister Abbott was able to secure $50 million for pregnancy counselling.

To allow radical feminists to obstruct this work by disqualifying voluntary organisations under the innocuous-sounding pretext of transparency in advertising would be scandalous.

Senator Stott Despoja's proposed Transparent Advertising and Notification of Pregnancy Counselling Services Bill 2005 is discriminatory, misleading, poorly framed and contrary to the interests of mothers and babies.

The opposition of the Senate committee to the Bill proceeding, and especially that of Liberal Senators Guy Barnett and Gary Humphries, should be applauded.

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