Tags: late term abortions

8 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, continued

Decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, continued

Author: Helen

<Image from http://www.now.org

Why has the “debate” on abortion decriminalisation in Victoria turned, again and again, to late-term abortion? Late term abortions are less than 1% of the total at present. So why is it that the coverage is all about abortion after twenty weeks? It crops up in just about every article on the Victorian Bill. I’ve been trying to avoid writing about it, because, well, then I’m just giving oxygen to the damn thing and becoming part of the problem. Like feeding the trolls. Late term abortion is really irrelevant to the discussion of the legislation, because the way it works will be virtually unchanged, and if we stop putting barriers in front of people who want an early abortion, it might even decline a bit. So why are the media and the anti-choice elements leaning on it so hard?

My initial guesses were, first, that late term abortion has a higher ick factor than early abortion, so that by focusing on gory pictures of foetuses and graphic descriptions of “partial birth” abortions (jargon imported, of course, from the US), the Tell the Truth crowd can play more effectively on emotion and uninformed reactions. Second, that by hammering the late-term abortion topic so relentlessly, they can make people assume wrongly that the proportion is higher than it really is.

Commenter Bingo Bango Boingo at LP offered a third possibility: that the battle for decriminalisation of abortion up to 24 weeks is pretty much lost now for the forced-birthers. Recognising that fact, they’re concentrating all their efforts on late-term abortion, as it is the part that will be more restricted under the proposed Bill and is therefore more susceptible to tightening amendments. (Anna Winter also remarked that those abortions, being so rare, are easier to make shit up about.)

I hope BBB’s right, as that is a relatively optimistic outlook. But still, the media obsession with late-term abortion prompts a few questions, for me. I think most rational people are aware that late-term abortions happen rarely in very tragic cases, mostly to do with foetuses which won’t be viable outside the womb, mothers whose lives are at risk, and very rarely for psychosocial cases which in themselves are very traumatic. But to read most newspaper accounts and comments from anti-choicers, you’d think that once abortion is removed from the criminal code, women will be thoughtlessly aborting for any trivial reason right up to the moment of birth. We’ll even be doing it just to get the baby bonus!

It’s such a jaundiced view of women. So many people seem to think that we’ll have abortions, even late term abortions, because we suddenly decide we want to fit into our Melbourne Cup frocks or some shit. OK, let me play their game for a minute or two. Let’s suppose that I’m a completely shallow party animal who just wants to look good, avoid personal issues and not lose my gym-toned sixpack or my partying lifestyle. Am I likely to have a late term abortion? Think about it.

Will I wait until I’ve got a grossly distended stomach (there goes the gym-toned sixpack, already) and have had to buy a second wardrobe of elastic-waisted garments; I’ve gone up two bra sizes; the people at work and at the club have all started asking interested questions; the family have all noticed; I’ve got puffy ankles and likely one or two other physical side-effects; I’ve kissed goodbye to my wine, cocktails and lots of my favourite foods; I haven’t had a proper sleep in weeks… Hmmm. Do you get my drift?

Media articles on decriminalisation are studded with words and phrases like “open slather“, “abortion on demand“– very popular this one, conjuring up images of women being all horrible and aggressive and demanding, and other loaded language all adding up to the impression that the decriminalisation of abortion will lead to non-stop abortion parties.

It’s based on exactly nothing, except for a deep cultural residue of contempt for women which the anti-choicers like Campbell may not even realise they carry. But it’s a cheap way to push people’s buttons. It’s a crock. And unfortunately, we appear to be stuck with it.

Against abortion? Don't have one

The bill to legalise abortion has been introduced into the Victorian parliament. You’ll remember that that’s the one with the options A, B and C.

The Bill allows unrestricted abortions in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, but termination would have to be approved by two doctors after 24 weeks.

That looks to me like the draft bill has gone with option B – Choice for women up to 24 weeks but with legal constraints imposed after that. Option C would have left the choice completely in the hands of the pregnant woman. Therefore, this bill, if it becomes law, won’t stop forced-birthers hounding and harassing women who need an abortion after 24 weeks – and their doctors.

This, of course, is because of the persistent idea that women are all mad keen to get very late term abortions just for the hell of it— an idea which I find very stupid, but it seems to persist along with the myth that the ALP (State and Federal) still has any tenuous connection with progressive thought. Fortunately, while forced-birthers like to create the impression that the typical abortion is late-term, these are relatively rare and may be even more rare if women aren’t delayed by the fear of illegality and delays from mandatory “pregnancy counselling”. That would benefit the majority of women who don’t even come within cooee of 24 weeks. But will the bill even go through as it is?

The coverage in the local paper today consisted of a human interest story about Greens MP Colleen Hartland, who I know and like, and a short drive-by interview with Labor MP Christine Campbell. Here’s what Campbell has to say:

WOMEN who are considering an abortion need more information and better decision-making counselling, Labor MP Christine Campbell has warned.
With legislation to decriminalise abortion expected to be introduced into State Parliament today, Ms Campbell said: “My big concern is that everyone’s so hell bent on decriminalising abortion, we might forget to put in place the support and care systems that women and couples need.”
Ms Campbell, who is expected to vote against decriminalisation, said she is leading a “Living Labor” group to push for amendments to protect women, whatever the result of the vote.

Maybe there were space constraints – heaven knows there was TEH SPORT taking first priority – but this leaves a few pertinent facts out, mainly that Christine Campbell is specifically anti-choice, and that in this country “women who are considering an abortion need more information and better decision-making counselling” is code for “women need to be badgered out of having an abortion and should definitely not be referred for same.”

Exhibit A: the former Federal government’s “pregnancy counselling” centres, run by religious anti-choice groups, which were the subject of a GetUp campaign, Stop Deceiving Women, because they concealed the true nature of their operations and advertised as if they were a neutral service. When Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja introduced the Pregnancy Counselling (Truth in Advertising) Bill in 2007 to counter this practice, Federal Labor refused to support it.

The bottom line is that social conservative Labor says that you can’t be trusted with your own body. I say that I don’t trust them with my reproductive rights.

24 May 2006, Comments Off on One story isn’t data

One story isn’t data

Author: Helen

The Balcony, Pavlov’s Cat and others have been watching, slackjawed with amazement, as that bulging bag of pus Julian MacGauran has spent years harassing the doctors and staff at the Royal Womens hospital.

For those with the good fortune not to know of Mr McGauran, this is about a contentious late-term abortion which was granted to a suicidal mentally ill woman who could not countenance giving birth to a foetus diagnosed with skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism). The ethical situation was complex, the decision lineball. Due to the woman’s firm stated intention to die one way or the other if forced to give birth, the hospital gave her the termination. For this, Mr Pus Senator McGauran is seeking to make an example of her (that’ll teach her to be mentally ill) and the medical staff (sack’em!). In the process, oopsie! Her name was also made public. Quite by accident, of course.

And what McGauran’s excuse for grandstanding and ruining peoples’ lives like this? Well, it’s the overwhelming epidemic of unnecessary late-term abortions, innit. Because as every selfish career woman knows, if you’re going to have an abortion just for the hell of it and because you don’t want to be inconvenienced, it makes sense to wait till the eighth month, when you’ll already be stretched out of shape, have undergone multiple body changes, need to wear absurd maternity garb, and will have to undergo a more risky procedure than an early term abortion.

Yah, absolutely, I think we just redefined the term no-brainer.

So, where’s this epidemic of unnecessary late-term abortion? Let’s assume the mother and the doctors made the wrong decision (which I don’t). This case happened six years ago. So where are all the other instances?Mr McGauran has latched onto this unfortunate case like the sucking parasite that he is because he doesn’t have any others.

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.