August 21st 2010

  Buy Issue 2833

Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Australia's future in the balance

EDITORIAL: Our neglected area of policy: the Pacific

FEDERAL ELECTION 2010: Vote Green: a good way to wreck your investments

FEDERAL ELECTION 2010: Green policies 'anti-Christian': Cardinal George Pell

FAMILY POLICIES: Let families decide how they structure their work/life balance

LABOR PARTY: Emily's Laundry? Emily's List whitewashes website

POLITICAL IDEAS: The chilling creed of the radical libertarians

BUSHFIRES ROYAL COMMISSION: Lack of political willpower haunts Victoria

VICTORIA: Babies born alive, but left to die?

NEW ZEALAND: Kiwis wary of China's murky takeover bids

UNITED STATES: One unelected judge nullifies will of majority

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: US election a referendum on Obama's presidency

ASIA: Burma fast becoming China's new Tibet

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Sharia law's relentless advance / Mosque at Ground Zero / Britain slashes defence spending / Fay Weldon rethinks feminism.

BOOK REVIEW: HAWKE: The Prime Minister, by Blanche d'Alpuget

BOOK REVIEW: GEORGE ORWELL: A Life in Letters, selected and annotated by Peter Davison

Books promotion page

Babies born alive, but left to die?

by Tim Cannon

News Weekly, August 21, 2010
In case you didn't know it, ostriches hold court in the Victorian Legislative Council.

July 28, 2010, saw yet another collective burying of heads in the sand by some 27 members of the state's upper house. Not surprisingly it was the perennially "too hard" issue of late-term abortion which triggered this astonishing display of wilful blindness.

To be fair to ostriches, the gawkish birds do not in fact partake in the laughable practice for which their species is so maligned, even if too many of our elected representatives do.

What had our MPs ducking for cover was a motion from Peter Kavanagh MLC, of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), calling for an inquiry by the Family and Community Development Committee into the post-natal deaths of babies born alive in Victoria after failed abortions.

Mr Kavanagh's motion came in response to the recently released 2007 Annual Report from the Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity (CCOPMM), which revealed that, in 2007, 52 babies were born alive following failed abortions, only to die shortly afterwards.

The CCOPMM's brief is to collate and classify data on all perinatal, child, adolescent and maternal deaths, as well as to identify factors that may have contributed to these deaths. The report makes for sombre reading. Numbers here represent little tragedies, deaths which have wrought untold grief upon expectant mothers and families.

But a distressing dichotomy pervades the report, at least wherever it is concerned with stillbirth and neonatal death. A significant proportion of these statistics now comprises child deaths attributable to abortion (or "terminations", to use the report's parlance).

The especially troubling statistic which prompted Mr Kavanagh's motion relates to neonatal deaths resulting from terminations - that is, deaths of newborn infants following attempted abortions.

At page iv, the executive summary reads: "Fifty-two of the 84 neonatal deaths attributed to congenital abnormalities were as a result of terminations of pregnancy."

The statistic is ubiquitous throughout the relevant sections of the report.

It is worth emphasising the statistical significance of neonatal deaths resulting from terminations. Of the 241 babies who died within 28 days of birth in Victoria in 2007, more than one fifth had survived an attempted abortion and been born alive.

The question which Mr Kavanagh quite rightly put to the Legislative Council was: what happened to those 52 babies between the time of their birth and their eventual death? What attempts were made to ensure that the children had the best possible chance of staying alive and being nursed to the best possible health?

Importantly, were these children, having survived the abortion, simply left to die?

In stark contrast to the lack of rights afforded to the unborn, the legal rights of newborn children are incontrovertible, as are the obligations of medical practitioners (and others) in respect of the child's medical needs.

Mr Kavanagh's motion simply sought to establish a committee process to determine exactly what happens following failed late-term abortions, and to ensure that in such cases the surviving child's interests, health and safety are given due regard.

Under the circumstances, a motion calling for an inquiry by the Family and Community Development Committee seems not merely reasonable; it is urgent.

Enter the ostriches.

And as they enter, scratching for a convenient spot to bury their heads, let us remember that the data in the CCPOMM report could not be clearer: 52 children born alive following "termination of pregnancy" procedures, made up more than 21 per cent of neonatal deaths in Victoria in 2007.

So how did the chamber deal with this data?

Not very well. Before voting on the motion, members were treated to a duet of stupefying erroneousness from Labor MLC Brian Tee, and Greens MLC Colleen Hartland. The pair, whose refrain was later echoed by Labor MLC Gayle Tierney, insisted that, despite the unambiguous language of the report, the 52 post-termination neonatal deaths had not in fact been subject to attempted terminations.

Whether this patently incorrect analysis was a result of carelessness, lack of comprehension, wilful ignorance, or wilful deception is not entirely clear. Suffice it to say that it was wrong.

Several MPs spoke in support of Mr Kavanagh's motion, including Coalition MLCs Richard Dalla-Riva, Bernie Finn, Matthew Guy, Peter Hall and Inga Peulich. These, along with Mr Kavanagh, must be applauded for their leadership on this issue. Ultimately, however, the motion was defeated 27-9, with Labor MLCs voting en bloc to oppose the motion, following a heated and sometimes brutal debate.

It is astounding that Labor MLCs were denied a conscience vote on such an important initiative. Sources suggest that party heavyweights instructed members to oppose the motion as a matter of political expediency in the run-up to the federal and state elections.

This is simply not good enough. Perhaps, in the run-up to the Victorian state election, it would be expedient for Victorians to take note of the MPs with their heads in the sand. Perhaps it's time to replace them with representatives who will stand tall and stand firm in defence of the vulnerable.

Perhaps it is time to show our elected representatives that, if they insist on putting their heads in the sand, they shouldn't be surprised to get a kick in the backside. Electorally speaking, of course.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

Join email list

Join e-newsletter list

Your cart has 0 items

Subscribe to NewsWeekly

Research Papers

Trending articles

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

COVER STORY Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

HUMAN RIGHTS A Magnitsky-style law for Australia?

COVER STORY Wildfires: Lessons from the past not yet learnt

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Bushfires: Never let a good crisis go to waste

CANBERRA OBSERVED Submarine build gives us a sinking feeling

GENDER POLITICS In trans Newspeak, parental consent is a 'hurdle'

© Copyright 2017
Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm