The bill to decriminalise abortion – giving the decision to the woman up to 24 weeks and requiring two doctors’ signoff afterwards – is before the Victorian parliament. And the coverage by the local broadsheet, the AGE, has been appalling. (State political editor Paul Austin, I’m looking at you.) Today there was a report of a head-smackingly awful development, made worse by a headline that misrepresents the facts completely:
* Nick Miller and Leo Shanahan
* September 2, 2008
LATE-TERM abortion “survivor” Gianna Jessen will address a meeting at Victoria’s Parliament House in a bid to sway politicians over proposed abortion laws.
The meeting will also hear from Victorian scientist and surgeon Graeme Clark, inventor of the bionic ear.
The 2004 Australian Father of the Year will tell the meeting that he is not anti-abortion in all circumstances, but he believes the proposed Victorian law is not the best solution.
Under the bill, which has the support of Premier John Brumby but not some members of his cabinet, abortions will be decriminalised up to 24 weeks and after that will be legal if approved by at least two doctors.
The meeting was arranged by an inter-faith religious group and all Victorian MPs are invited.
Ms Jessen arrived in Canberra yesterday to lobby senators to support a separate bill, proposed by Liberal senator Guy Barnett, that would result in the abolition of Medicare funding for abortions conducted between 14 and 26 weeks.
Ms Jessen, who has cerebral palsy as a result of being deprived of oxygen during a botched abortion at 7½ months, will put her case to senators over the next two days….
First of all, do you see what they did there? The byline gives the clear impression that a Top Scientist has come up with some, you know, scientific reason for not decriminalising abortion. If you read the article, it’s nothing of the kind. He’s one of two celebrity speakers engaged by the godbag lobby group the Australian Christian Lobby, and he’s speaking as an ordinary (if celebrated) citizen who is personally squicked by the idea of abortion, even though he isn’t even 100% against it.
Second, Guy Barnett’s medicare bill. I’ll get around to that I hope, but tonight I’m mainly concerned about the “meeting” itself. And thirdly, again, they’ve managed to make the debate “about” late-term abortion – which is the rarest kind and may even get more rare once women don’t have to jump through legalistic hoops to have an earlier one.
It’s simply pandering to the religious right by the Victorian parliament. What can possibly be the Brumby government’s excuse? OK, some questions for you, Mr Brumby:
*Even if it’s sponsored by an outside group, this must be consuming Parliamentary resources (venue, catering) and the time of government and opposition MPs, whose salaries we pay. What is the cost of this meeting going to be?
*Why does the Australian Christian Lobby get to hold this meeting at Parliament house? Surely this is according them rights above and beyond the normal ability of community groups to protest tabled legislation. Other groups, like the anti-pipe protesters and Blue Wedges, have been snubbed and also sued by this government. Why the preferential treatment?
*Will a pro-choice organisation, such as ProChoice Vic., be invited to conduct a similar meeting with speakers of their choice, so as to provide some balance?
Some information about the godbags organising this thing:
Two other organisations that both began in 1995 with a Christian right focus and agenda were the Australian Christian Coalition, now known as the Australian Christian Lobby, and Salt Shakers. The Australian Christian Lobby has its headquarters in Canberra with State Offices, whilst Salt Shakers has a single office in Melbourne. Over time the Australian Christian Lobby has moved from the political right to a centre right position whilst Salt Shakers has not. Both have had their wins and losses over the 11 years that they have been operating.
Gianna Jessen is a singer who works the lecture circuit as an anti-abortion agitator with a unique selling point: she’s a late abortion survivor with cerebral palsy. Now I know that having cerebral palsy sucks mightily, and she would naturally have issues with her biological mother. However, unlike many people with CP in this country, she has made a nice little earner out of her vanishingly rare situation; here’s her booking agent. She wouldn’t be speaking for free; presumably the ACL paid for her. They should have also had to pay for a venue of their own instead of being given a forum in our (supposedly) democratic Houses of Parliament.
So, what should be a parliamentary debate is being biased by forced-birther organisations with money and influence. Not happy, John (Brumby).