August 10th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Boris Johnson and the EU: Crash through or just crash

EDITORIAL When will Morrison stamp his authority on his mandate?

CANBERRA OBSERVED A quick peek into the security shadows

ENVIRONMENT When apex predators hit the turbines, think of the clean energy

HUMAN RIGHTS Unalienable rights can be recognised, not made up

SECURITY Australian Signals Directorate comes out of the shadows

RURAL AFFAIRS Distress, economic and societal, pervades Australia

GENDER POLITICS I was America's first non-binary person: It was all a sham

FICTION Mick and the Little Man

HUMOUR Japan G20: Donny meets Jenny

MUSIC Dire tonics: Departure from harmony has proved a flop

CINEMA The Lion King: Remake takes a deeper look

BOOK REVIEW Public enemy No. 1 and his twin, No. 2

BOOK REVIEW In the market with the Angelic Doctor



NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

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Clear and present danger to women's health

by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, August 10, 2019

With the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 (the Bill) being introduced into the New South Wales Parliament, abortion is back on the political agenda.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance demonstrates his "appalled" expression.

Currently in NSW, abortion is generally regarded as lawful if performed to prevent serious danger to the woman’s mental or physical health, which includes economic and social pressures. It is a criminal offence but the Crimes Act specifies that it is a crime only if performed “unlawfully”. The judegement of Levine J in R v Wald means, effectively, that abortion is “lawful” in NSW if the doctor honestly believes on reasonable grounds that “the operation was necessary to preserve the woman involved from serious danger to her life or physical or mental health which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail”.

In regard to “mental health”, the doctor may take into account “the effects of economic or social stress”. This decision has been affirmed in other NSW court cases.

The Bill provides for abortion on demand up to 22 weeks without any conditions.

Between 22 weeks and the day of birth, two doctors have to agree that, “in all the circumstances”, the abortion should be performed. “Circumstances” that must be considered include “current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances”.

What does “future circumstances” mean? How can anyone know what future circumstances may be? Does it mean just the immediate future? What about medium and long-term welfare? What about the risk of post-abortion trauma?

What are considered “social” circumstances? That the person/family would suffer a loss of income by having to work fewer hours or lose career prospects? That the person/family needs a bigger house or a bigger car? Or that they would have to pay increased costs of school fees or having to forgo a holiday?

What does “psychological” include? When were psychological problems ever resolved by abortion? Why doesn’t the Bill provide for psychological assistance/counselling to be offered?

The Bill does not reference any professional standards according to which medical practitioners are to exercise their duties under the proposed law. The circumstances in which an abortion post 22 weeks can be performed are open ended. Effectively, the Bill allows abortion to nine months; meaning a baby can be aborted literally moments before natural birth.

The people of NSW need to understand this. Even today in Victoria there are people who don’t know that the Abortion Law Reform Act (ALRA) allows this and are horrified when Section 5 of the Act is read out to them.

The NSW Bill does not provide any legal protection for babies born alive after late-term abortions. Premature babies born at 20 weeks can survive; yet, if a baby of the same gestational age is aborted, there is no requirement that medical assistance, or even comfort, be provided.

This is inhumane. A tiny human manages to survive the awful process of abortion but is not even then offered warmth much less medical care to give him or her a chance to live.

There is nothing in the Bill that res­pects a woman’s choice. Sections 5 and 6 provide that a doctor “may perform” an abortion, but neither even mentions that a patient request is necessary. So does the Bill require a request be made in order for a doctor to be allowed to perform an abortion?

Who has to make the request, if one has to be made? Must it be the woman herself? Or can someone else (husband, partner, parent) request an abortion be performed on the woman?

If a patient is unconscious, can a doctor perform an abortion on that patient without a request because he or she is of the opinion it is in the woman’s best interests?

Could the Bill enable a violent domestic partner to request an abortion, telling the doctor it is in the woman’s best interests?

If a woman is suffering a period of mental illness, depression or a paranoid schizophrenic episode, does the Bill allow a doctor to abort her baby as in the doctor’s opinion it is in her best inte­rests? Who makes the decision?

There is no minimum age requirement for a doctor to perform an abortion. What about mandatory reporting of suspected child sex abuse? What about informed consent if a girl is a minor, that is, under 18 years? There is no requirement for custodial parents to be informed when young girls are taken to abortion clinics. Where is the conscience about child protection and child safety?

Section 8 of the Bill denies freedom of conscience for doctors and health professionals who have a conscientious objection to abortion as they are required by law to refer a patient to another practitioner who they believe has no conscientious objection.

In 2010, the Victorian Women’s Health Action Trust published “A Road Map to Abortion”, which described the conscientious objection clause as one of the “big wins” from the campaign to get the Abortion Law Reform Act passed – “This was deeply contested … and was considered an excellent outcome.”

It is a very important part of the pro-abortion agenda to shut down any dissent.

Will Section 8 conflict with the pro­posed federal freedom-of-religion legislation? The Bill abolishes any common law offence in relation to procuring a person’s miscarriage. Does this mean a violent partner’s assault on a pregnant woman with intent to kill the unborn baby that results in the baby’s death does not constitute an offence against the baby?

If those supporting the Bill are truly concerned for women’s health and safety, why is there no provision for counselling or provision of full information on all the risks of abortion?

There is no requirement that women be provided with full information of support services available and alternatives to abortion so they can make a truly informed choice.

But most Australians want help for women. A 2005 survey of 1200 Australians by the Southern Cross Bioethics Centre showed that 98 per cent wanted women to be given information on the health risks of abortion; 99 per cent wanted access to counselling for women contemplating abortion; 86 per cent wanted independent counselling from someone independent of the abortion provider; 94 per cent wanted women contemplating abortion to be provided with information on alternatives and support services.

And a 2018 survey of Queenslanders showed that 88 per cent supported counselling and 85 per cent supported full information for women so they can give informed consent.

A 2017 survey of people in NSW found that 90 per cent agreed that a woman should have the right to independent counselling from a source that has no financial interest in her decision, so that she can make a fully informed decision. It also found that 93 per cent agreed that a woman considering abortion should have the right to be informed of the physical and psychological risks associated with abortion, and the support available should she wish to continue with the pregnancy.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he was “appalled” by an ad that he ordered to be pulled from buses in Newcastle on receiving one complaint about it. More recently, the ad was pulled from a billboard in Lake Macquarie on the strength of a petition with 375 signatures saying it was “offensive”. The ad consisted of an image of hands making a heart shape around a pregnant woman’s stomach and said: “a heart beats at four weeks.”

Why is this message so threatening? Is it because it draws focus to the humanity of the unborn baby? That it’s not just a “pregnancy”, it’s a baby?

Emily’s Voice, the group that paid for the ad, says it “exists to help Australians fall in love with the unborn and encourage and support women facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy”. Is it a danger to humanise the reality of the unborn and awaken normal, healthy human emotions of love and of concern for the expectant mother?

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm