REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Inquiry ruled out into atrocities of late-term abortions
, November 13, 2010
A call to investigate the deaths of more than 50 babies who die each year shortly after birth, following "failed" abortions, was rejected earlier this year by Victoria's Parliament.
On July 28, 2010, Victoria's upper house, the Legislative Council, debated a motion moved by Peter Kavanagh MLC (DLP, Western Victoria) to investigate the deaths. But a majority of MLCs voted against Mr Kavanagh's motion, which therefore failed.
Three upper house members, Colleen Hartland (Greens), Gayle Tierney (ALP) and Brian Tierney (ALP), called Mr Kavanagh "disgusting" for raising the issue.
They added that there was no way that babies born alive following "failed" abortions could be neglected to death, much less deliberately killed. They claimed that these babies were "wanted" babies and that the parents had chosen to have the pregnancies terminated by early induction rather than a chemical abortion so that they could cuddle their babies before they died.
However, Barney Zwartz, religion editor of the Melbourne Age
, recently wrote an article headed, "Aborted babies 'being left to die'" (The Age
, October 7, 2010). In it he quoted extensively from a motion to the annual Victorian synod of the Anglican Church moved by Rev Dr Mark Durie, vicar of St Mary's Anglican Church in Caulfield a suburb in Melbourne's south-east.
Dr Durie moved that the Anglican Church ask Victoria's Brumby Labor Government to provide answers to the public to five questions about late-term abortions:
• How many are happening, and how late?
• What are the reasons for these abortions?
• Are those born alive receiving medical care, or what is their cause of death?
• What has been the effect on staff morale at the Royal Women's Hospital?
• What has been the effect on staff recruitment?
Dr Durie added that a trainee (not at the RWH) was deeply traumatised when she was told to drop a living foetus into a bucket of formaldehyde.
Unfortunately, Dr Durie's motion at the Anglican synod was not voted on as Rev. Dr Ray Cleary, a theology lecturer and former chief executive officer of Anglicare Victoria (Victoria's largest provider of support services for children and families), moved that the synod move on to the next item on the agenda.
However, in a media release, Peter Kavanagh MLC said: "My suspicion that abortionists assume the right to kill any baby after birth, whom they try but fail to kill before birth, is now confirmed, however, with the revelation that survivors of abortion are being deliberately neglected to death.
"One nurse even reports that she was told to drop a surviving victim of an abortion into a bucket of formaldehyde."
In a media release dated October 7, 2010, Marilyn Beaumont, executive director of the feminist pro-abortion Women's Health Victoria, made serious allegations against Dr Durie, claiming he was spreading misinformation about Victoria's abortion law.
In his response, Dr Durie stated that "It is disappointing that in launching what amounts to a public attack on my reputation, Women's Health Victoria has itself put out information containing serious omissions and inaccuracies. These give a misleading impression concerning both the abortion law in Victoria, and statistics for late-term abortions."
Dr Durie has said that conscientious objection by medical staff to abortion was now illegal in Victoria. This comment was reported in the context of the employment of hospital medical staff.
Ms Beaumont alleged that this statement was inaccurate, on the grounds that:
• Section 8 of Victoria's Abortion Law Reform Act 2008
allows health practitioners to object to abortion.
• However, a health professional who has a conscientious objection to abortion is required to refer a woman for termination of pregnancy services.
• Any conscientious objection to making such a referral "does not have merit".
• The Act's rejection of conscientious objection in relation to referral is ethically correct, because in the context of referral, a woman's right to make informed choices about her health must take precedence over the conscience of the health practitioner.
In response to this argument, Dr Durie said: "I note first that Ms Beaumont has correctly conceded that it is illegal in the state of Victoria for a health practitioner to object, on grounds of conscience, to referring a woman for abortion services. In this respect, conscientious objection by health practitioners is illegal in Victoria.
"Ms Beaumont appears to regard this illegality as trivial - she maintains such an objection 'does not have merit'. However, this value judgment relies upon a contentious ethical opinion about the moral value of abortion, which regards it simply as a decision made by a woman about her own body.
"Second, and more importantly, the Section 8 concession to conscientious objection only applies in the case when a woman has requested a health practitioner to advise or treat her in relation to abortion. No such concession exists in the case of hospital staff - such as operating theatre workers - who do not have a direct relationship with the woman. In this context, Section 8 is irrelevant, and conscientious objection by health practitioners receives no protection under the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008
"The comments attributed to me in the Melbourne Age
were specifically in relation to hospital health workers. It is therefore disappointing that Ms Beaumont has misrepresented the scope and application of the Abortion Law Reform Act
. Nothing in the WHV press release acknowledges that Section 8 of the Act does not apply to hospital health practitioners who have no direct relationship with the patient. This was a significant omission."
Dr Durie went on to discuss government official statistical estimates for abortion in Victoria. He said: "Ms Beaumont stated that 'A significant proportion of late-term abortions, including the 52 mentioned in this article, [i.e., in the Melbourne Age
, October 7, 2010] are for congenital abnormality...'. Based on this observation, she alleges that 'The minister's [i.e., Mark Durie's] comments are not only inaccurate but grossly insensitive both to the health-care providers and families involved in late-term abortions for congenital abnormality and the impact this can have.'
"The rebuke appears to rely on an implication that late-term abortions in Victoria are primarily for congenital abnormality. This is not true.
"For example, in 2005 there were 129 late-term abortions reported in Victoria for reasons of congenital abnormality, but 180 for 'psychosocial indications' (i.e., there was nothing wrong with the baby). ...
"Victoria has seen explosive growth in late-term abortions for psychosocial indications. This trend was well underway before the Abortion Law Reform Act
in 2008, and there has been an indication that it may be continuing.
"A Channel 7 news report, aired on April 17, 2010, reported that late-term abortions at the Royal Women's hospital had allegedly increased six-fold since the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008
was introduced. This has to be considered on top of the previous 400 per cent state-wide increase in late-term abortions for psychosocial indications from 2001-2007.
"While it is impossible to be sure of figures without further information, the combined multiplicative effect of two such reported increases could be an overall 2400 per cent increase in late-term abortions for psychosocial indications within a 10-year period.
"Such a possibility caused me to move that the Melbourne synod of the Anglican diocese request a report from the Victorian State Government about the impact of its liberalisation of abortion laws.
"The Abortion Law Reform Act
went into force in late October 2008, so the full impact of Victoria's liberalisation of abortion laws on late-term abortion statistics will only be publicly known when the 2009 report of the Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity is released. This will presumably be sometime in late 2011 to early 2012. (The 2008 report has not yet been released as of October 2010, and the 2007 report was only released in April 2010).
"I deplore the serious omissions and misleading information concerning the application of abortion law which were contained in the Women's Health Victoria press release.
"I repeat my call for the Victorian Government to report to the public on the impact of abortion law reform, and specifically its impact on the frequency of late-term abortions in Victoria.
"I remain deeply concerned about the implications of what appears to be explosive recent growth in late-term abortions in Victoria, including the obvious potential of such growth to impact on the recruitment and morale of health practitioners in those hospitals which perform late-term abortions."
Endeavour Forum Inc. has written to all state MPs to ask them to inform Victorian voters before the state elections on November 27 whether, in view of Dr Durie's serious allegations, as reported by Barney Zwartz in The Age
, they would support:
(a) Legislation similar to the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, USA, which requires that any baby born alive as a result of natural or induced labour, caesarean section, or induced abortion be legally considered a person and receive medical attention as needed.
(b) Legislation similar to the Nebraska law, Legislative Bill 1103, which provides pain relief to the foetus in late-term abortions.
Dropping a live "foetus" into a bucket of formaldehyde is hardly keeping it "warm, hydrated and pain-free", as claimed by the Labor and Green supporters of late-term abortions who opposed Peter Kavanagh's motion for an inquiry. Babies born alive after abortion are legally entitled to the same medical care as other infants of the same gestational age.Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.