Tags: abortion debate

2 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Religious hijacking of abortion debate in Victoria (yes, totally expected)

Religious hijacking of abortion debate in Victoria (yes, totally expected)

Author: Helen

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:

Top Scientist says ‘No’ to Abortion Bill

* 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).

The abortion “debate” (read anti-abortion campaign) is off and running. Wake up and smell the dishonesty.

Watch out for organisations with confidence-inspiring names like “Foundation for Human Development” (a front for the NSW Right to Life) and “Pregnancy Counselling Australia” (also a RTL front). No, I’m not saying RTL has no right to exist and air their opinions, but why the coyness about using their real name? Why the sneaking around? Well, maybe it’s so you can (in the case of Pregnancy Counselling Australia) attract vulnerable young women on the basis of a White Pages ad, without your opponents noticing.

Well, not for a while, anyway. Just keep an eye out for spokespeople from these organisations and others in the paper and on the radio. Hope for an articulate, well coordinated opposition. Fair and balanced?

Prepare for some outrageous massaging of statistics, too. We already have an abortion “epidemic”; Women are just whipping ’em out with incredible ease and callousness; Many of these are gruesome late term abortions with perfectly cute little bubs left mewling feebly in kidney dishes.

Fortunately, the reality is very different. But we know that won’t stop the lobbyists, and they can be very convincing – remember WMD?

Why don’t I supply alternative statistics? Because there aren’t any good accurate figures on abortion in Australia. Besides numerous problems such as collecting data in private clinics versus the public system, there are only statistics on the medical procedures surrounding abortion. Therefore, the “epidemic” that Mr Boswell and the right to lifers are so upset about includes curettages and other processes that are carried out when a woman miscarries.

So, the “epidemic” includes procedures that are “abortion” in a narrow medical sense but not in the sense the right-to-lifers use.

Despite the dearth of information on earlier abortion, we can say that the continual focus in the media on late term abortion is a crock: these abortions are by far the rarest and are only carried out in circumstances where they are the only option. (Yes, you’ll always find one abuse; there’s the single example of the woman who had a late term abortion because her baby was affected by dwarfism; I disagreed with her decision. Any other examples?)

If you follow Alas, a Blog and other feminist or political blogs you will be familiar with the resurgence of the “abortion debate” (read, push to restrict or eliminate abortion driven by the religious Right) in the US. And if you noticed the new resurgence of the religious Right in Australia since the last election, you won’t be surprised Australia is catching the virus.

At first I was heartened by the fact that Howard and other prominent social conservative Liberals seemed unenthusiastic about a change in abortion laws (insofar as Medicare rebates are concerned that is – that’s the only power the Feds have.) But then I heard this. Does this mean they know a change in abortion laws isn’t necessary – this kind of “reform” will guarantee they will get what they want anyway?

This could be interesting. Too interesting. We need to wade into this if necessary, for our daughters’ sake.