Australia: The illogic of the prolifers
Sydney Morning Herald -- Wednesday March 9 2005
If terminations are really murder, there should be no abortion debate
Anti-abortion campaigners do not follow the logic of their frequent
references to child killing, writes Emily Maguire.
By allowing abortion to remain on the Medicare schedule, the Federal
Government is offering to "pay you a subsidy to have your child killed by
abortion", said Right to Life Australia's Margaret Tighe last month.
To Tighe, an abortion is not a medical procedure to end an unwanted
pregnancy; it is a procedure in which a child is killed. In light of this
view, it is astounding that Tighe is worried about a triviality like
funding. If something is killing children, shouldn't the priority be to stop
it, regardless of how it is being paid for?
To supporters of abortion, an embryo is not a child. If left alone, it may
develop into one, but during the first trimester it is a mass of relatively
undifferentiated cells that exist as a part of a woman's body.
Disposing of this cell cluster is called abortion, and the law says that
under some circumstances this is legal. Disposal of children is called
murder and is rightly abhorred and condemned by the entire community. As a
supporter of legal abortion I am sickened to hear anti-abortion crusaders
talk on the one hand about the killing of children and on the other about
If I believed legalised child murder were taking place in this country I
would be screaming at the top of my voice to have this stopped immediately.
Then I would not rest until all of those responsible were charged and
Yet Tighe is concerned about who pays. The Health Minister, Tony Abbott, and
the National Party senator Ron Boswell are worried about how many abortions
are performed each year.
Peter Barnes, a Presbyterian Church representative at a January forum of
religious leaders, referred to abortion as "killing youngsters". Yet he
signed a document which demands intensive pre-abortion counselling and the
publication of abortion statistics, but not, significantly, tightening of
abortion laws. So the "killing of youngsters" is OK as long as their killers
receive proper counselling and the murder is noted down for the public record?
The Federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, is "opposed to abortion" as he
thinks "it involves issues of life". He does not, however, think it should
be subject to "criminal sanctions". This is the kind of hazy,
euphemism-filled non-stance that so many politicians take on abortion.
Imagine a senior politician announcing that he was personally opposed to
child abuse but didn't think it should be a crime. Yet when it comes to
abortion we accept this kind of ludicrous equivocation without question.
The Liberal backbencher Danna Vale last month introduced a new distraction
into the debate when she announced she would push for an inquiry into
post-abortion depression. This is a distraction, not because a woman's
mental health is unimportant, but because it is irrelevant to the central
question of the legality of abortion.
Some women suffer from depression following an abortion, and some women
suffer from depression following childbirth. Both sets of women deserve care
and support, and neither group is evidence that the process preceding the
depression is an inherently damaging one.
Information on post-abortion and postnatal depression is widely available
and routinely supplied to pregnant women by health-care providers. A woman
deciding to undergo any surgical procedure is able to weigh up the potential
risks for herself. She doesn't need a government inquiry to do so for her.
It's time for politicians to stop having a bet each way and for
anti-abortion campaigners to say what they really mean. Premeditated,
cold-blooded child murder is not a matter for debate. If abortion is
equivalent to infanticide, shouldn't the women who have authorised this
killing and the doctors who have carried it out be prosecuted and incarcerated?
I don't believe abortion is murder and the law agrees with me. If I'm wrong,
if the law is wrong, then about a quarter of Australian women are murderers
and millions of men and women are knowing accomplices.
This is the reality of the debate that Abbot, Boswell and others want us to
have. Abortion is murder, or it is not.
If you believe the former, then I challenge you to gather your evidence and
take your case to the Parliament, to the courts, to the media. If you
believe abortion is unpleasant or immoral, you have every right to that
belief, but you do not have the right to accuse millions of law-abiding
adults of being child killers, or to interfere in a woman's private decision
to undergo a legal medical procedure.
Emily Maguire is the author of Taming the Beast (Brandl & Schlesinger).