August 2nd 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY : WORLD YOUTH DAY 2008: Christianity challenges the secular age

EDITORIAL: A tale of two countries ...

CANBERRA OBSERVED: How Rudd could avoid climate change backlash

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Future threats from China

FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Sovereign Wealth Funds threaten Australia's independence

NATIONAL SECURITY: Let our security services do their job

EDUCATION: Reclaiming the school syllabus

SCHOOLS: Will more computers help under-performing schools?

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY: Under threat - the roles of motherhood and fatherhood

MEDIA: Ten's Big Brother finally bites the dust

STRAWS IN THE WIND: A new political and moral map for Australia?

VICTORIA: Women's Hospital counsel defends abortion

OPINION: Carbon emissions hysteria is economic suicide

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Bastille Day reconsidered / Sharia law in Europe

Answer to water crisis (letter)

Global-warming scepticism challenged (letter)

Advances in solar power technology (letter)

American health care (letter)

BOOKS: FORGOTTEN ANZACS: The campaign in Greece, 1941, by Peter Ewer

BOOKS: HOMER'S THE ILIAD AND THE ODYSSEY: A Biography, by Alberto Manguel

Books promotion page

Women's Hospital counsel defends abortion

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, August 2, 2008
Illogically, at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital some premature babies are expertly cared for, while babies of older gestational ages are aborted. Babette Francis reports.

Melbourne's new Royal Women's Hospital (RWH) was designed so that another two floors could be added later, but clinicians and Victoria's auditor-general consider the extra floors are needed now to meet increased demand.

Women from Melbourne's northern suburbs complain they won't have access to the new hospital. Labor Premier John Brumby says, "It's a specialist hospital - it provides quality care."

But how much "quality care" will be expended on abortion facilities rather than on maternity care? In the old RWH there were 5,000 births annually and 3,000 abortions. What will be the ratio in the new RWH? The views of Elizabeth Kennedy, RWH's corporate counsel, give cause for concern.

In March 2008 the Law Institute Journal of Victoria published four articles on the decriminalisation of abortion. One, by Charles Francis, AM, QC, was opposed to decriminalisation; three, including one by Elizabeth Kennedy, were in favour.

A health issue?

Kennedy asserts that abortion a) is a health issue, b) should not be in the Crimes Act, and c) should be dealt with no differently from any other medical procedure.

However, she overlooks the fact that abortion is not treated like other medical procedures, in which x-rays and ultrasounds are shown to the patient and the surgeon will discuss options. Surgery may not be the best option, and it is often not the first procedure suggested.

Elizabeth Kennedy claims that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures when performed by "a competent health professional", apparently dropping the requirement that abortions be performed by a registered medical practitioner.

Whatever happened to the mantra that "abortion should be a matter only between the woman and her doctor"? As for "safest", had she never read the alarming Finnish study published more than a decade ago in the leading Scandinavian medical journal of obstetrics and gynaecology? It showed that Finnish women who had an induced abortion had 3.5 times the total risk of dying in the 12 months after "the end of pregnancy" as women who delivered (Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavia, 1997, Vol.76, pp.651-657).

Kennedy acknowledges that criminal law should deal with offenders who assault pregnant women and cause injury with intent to harm the foetus, but states: "A late abortion carried out for a woman's physical or mental health should not give rise to prosecution for child destruction."

However, if a woman's physical or mental health is threatened in late pregnancy, why cannot the birth be induced and the baby adopted?

Killing a foetus in late pregnancy, especially through partial-birth abortion - which comprises rotating the baby so it presents feet first, then crushing its skull and suctioning out its brain while it is still in the birth canal - involves greater risk to the mother than an induced birth.

Australia's best-known late-term abortionist, Dr David Grundmann, in answer to why he didn't deliver a (healthy) 24-weeks gestation baby and let it be adopted, said he was "there to do an abortion, not put some woman's foetus in an incubator".

Grundmann is hired to kill the foetus, but it is not clear why Elizabeth Kennedy doesn't recommend induction of birth and adoption rather than abortion for post-24-weeks gestation babies.

Illogically, at the RWH some premature babies are expertly cared for, while babies of older gestational ages are aborted.

Kennedy agrees that assault on a pregnant woman with intent to injure the foetus should be dealt with in the criminal law, but in the US the pro-choice lobby has vehemently opposed any recognition of the foetus as an individual in murder cases or car accidents in which both the mother and her unborn baby have been killed.

It does not want the perpetrator to be tried for killing two people (not even when the pregnant woman is close to her delivery date) but only for the death of a pregnant woman.

Any recognition of the foetus as a baby is anathema to the pro-choice lobby, even when - as in the gruesome procedure of partial-birth abortion - the foetus has its legs, abdomen and shoulders out of the birth canal.


South Carolina will be the 16th state in the US with legislation offering women the option of seeing an ultrasound of their unborn child before abortion.

The pro-choice lobby in Australia, however, claims that women who come to an abortion clinic have made up their minds, and showing them an ultrasound will cause emotional distress. However, if a woman is likely to change her mind after viewing an ultrasound, that surely means she is still ambivalent and could suffer deep regret after the abortion.

How ironic that hospitals give ultrasound pictures to parents who are happy about their pregnancy as "the first picture of your baby", but that mothers who are uncertain are denied a picture which will be the last and only one they will have of that child.

- The author Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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