Abortion Bill report flawed by rushed process, bias and censorship

 

MEDIA RELEASE – 5 October, 2018

 

It’s not surprising that 4 out of the 6 Health Committee members arrived at what seemed a pre-determined outcome, with just the two LNP MPs dissenting.

The Health Committee inquiry into the Termination of Pregnancy Bill was badly flawed, due to a rushed schedule and a bias towards supporters of the Bill, with just 40% of the total time across the three public hearings given to pro-life witnesses, and 60% to pro-abortion or pro-choice witnesses. This is particularly unfair given that of the 4,855 public submissions uploaded on the parliamentary website, 78% were opposed to the Bill, with 15% in favour and 7% unsure.

“With three Labor MPs and one Greens MP controlling the committee, this bias was perhaps even more pronounced in the selection of expert witnesses,” Cherish Life executive director Ms Teeshan Johnson said.

“There were 10 pro-abortion or pro-choice doctors up against just two pro-life doctors, an invited pro-life obstetrician not allowed to speak despite that session finishing early, and six lawyers supporting the Bill with no pro-life lawyers invited to put the other side.

“With a strong pro-abortion bias and line of questioning, it was obvious that the majority of the Health Committee was going through the motions to ensure that Government’s Bill would be recommended to be passed.

“This was particularly true of Labor MP and pro-abortion EMILY’s Lister Nikki Boyd, who although not officially a committee member, was a very vocal panellist for every briefing and hearing, and Greens MP Michael Berkman, who spoke at a pro-abortion rally during the committee process and whose partner is a manager at Children by Choice.

“Furthermore, the censorship of aspects of some submissions by the majority on the committee needs to be called out.

“The Health Committee did state on its website page that it had ‘resolved not to accept images of foetuses or the outcomes of medical procedures’ in submissions.

“In the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life submission (no. 461), even the logo of the Federation, which featured a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of an unborn child in the womb, was blacked out in the published version on the Committee’s page, as were formal medical diagrams used on the floor of the US Senate when discussing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act 2003.

“Amazingly, parts of the actual wording of several submissions, including the one from the Federation, also were blacked out.

“In the Federation’s submission, part of the actual wording of the US Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act 2003 was blacked out, as was part of the transcript of current affairs programs on abortion broadcast nationally to the Australian public on SBS in 2005 and Channel 9 in 2006, and part of the testimony of an Australian woman, who recounted her experience of aborting a 16 week pregnancy.

“What possible justification is there for this censorship? It seemed like the majority of the Health Committee was not interested in the truth about what abortion involves.

“If the US Senate as well as the Australian public, through SBS and Channel 9 national current affairs programs, can be shown and told how abortions are done, then the Queensland Parliament Health Committee charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing this Bill seeking to remove the law on abortion from the Criminal Code, so as to legalise terminations for any reason until 22 weeks of pregnancy, should have been able to open their eyes and ears to exactly what they were going to approve.

“It is very concerning that the majority of this Committee did not want to see, hear or know about what exactly they have recommended to be legalised, presumably because they did not want to deal with reality and the destruction that abortion brings.”

In giving support to the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, some very concerning aspects of the Bill endorsed by the Health Committee were:

ABORTION TO BIRTH WOULD BE LEGAL

The Queensland Government’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill would legalise abortion on request, no questions asked, for any reason up to 22 weeks.

From 22 weeks until birth (because there is no upper limit), the Bill would legalise abortion under expanded criteria including "current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances", with the approval of two doctors.

These loose rules do not require the second doctor to see the patient or even look at her file. If a second opinion is not sought, there is no legal penalty. In any case, it would not be difficult to find two doctors who hold the view that a woman's autonomy is paramount right through pregnancy, which the Attorney-General has said is the underlying principle of this Bill.

The grounds for doing a late-term abortion - "physical, psychological and social" - cover every reason, and this together with the loose rules mean that it is true to say that Bill effectively would allow unrestricted abortion to beyond 22 weeks.

The Queensland Bill is modelled on the Victorian decriminalisation law, which has resulted in a 39% increase in late-term abortions in Victoria over the 8 years since the law was changed in 2008, compared with the 9 years beforehand. Furthermore, almost half of late-term abortions in Victoria over recent years have been for "psycho-social" reasons, whereas the current Queensland law does not allow abortions for this reason.

The 22 week “limit” in the Termination of Pregnancy Bill would be just as ineffective as Victoria’s 24 week gestational “limit”, because of the loose criteria and poor governance around the second doctor approval process. Basically this is an abortion to birth Bill.

As for those who claim that no abortions would be done up to birth, in 2011 in Victoria, a healthy baby of a healthy mother was aborted for “psycho-social” reasons at over 37 weeks gestation – this is regarded as a full-term baby.

In that same year, 10 healthy viable babies of healthy mothers between 28 and 31 weeks gestation also were aborted for “psycho-social” reasons in Victoria.

 

FOOTNOTES

 

SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION WOULD BE LEGALISED

Part 2 Section 5 of the Bill States: “A medical practitioner may perform a termination on a woman who is not more than 22 weeks pregnant.”   Removal of any restrictions on abortion in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, means abortion will be legal for sex selection.

Abortion on request is just that – no reason has to be given.

Abortion for sex selection is not legal under the current law, as interpreted by the courts, because this is not a situation where there is a serious danger to a woman’s physical or mental health.

One of the terrible consequences of legalising abortion on request to 22 weeks gestation is it would be legal to abort a female baby, just for being a girl. The sex of a child is usually discovered at the 16 to 20 week scan, but can also be detected from 10 weeks of pregnancy by a blood test.

Part 2 Section 6 of the Bill specifies that abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy is allowed if a doctor considers that it should be performed under a broad range of criteria including “the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances”, and a second doctor agrees.

The key point is that word “social” is ambiguous and would include in its scope sex-selective abortion, as sex selection is a social reason. This practice fits under no other description.

Although in practice sex-selective abortion almost always would be prior to 22 weeks gestation because the sex can be determined well before then, it could be very accessible past 22 weeks too because of the loose criteria for obtaining a late-term abortion and the lack of rigorous governance around the approval process.

Globally, sex-selective abortion and infanticide of female babies is at catastrophic levels, with United Nations estimates of more than 100 million girls missing around the world.

There is evidence that sex-selective abortions do occur in Australia, provided by a demographic study using ABS data from 2003 to 2013 showing “1,395 missing girls”, which was reported by SBS 1and Daily Mail Australia 2in 2015. Also, on 12 August 2018 The Sydney Morning Herald3 and The Age carried a story titled “The ‘missing girls’ never born in Australia”.

It is worth noting that Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 is almost a mirror image of the Victorian abortion law passed in 2008 (please see the comparison table in the appendix), which allows sex-selective abortion and even compels doctors to refer these cases to an abortionist under threat of deregistration.

In 2013, Dr Mark Hobart4, a Melbourne GP, faced disciplinary action for refusing to refer a couple with a 19 week unborn baby girl for a sex-selective abortion in Victoria.

Recent YouGov Galaxy polling (full results in appendix) show that only 8% of Queenslanders, including 5% of women, support sex-selective abortions, with 83% of voters opposed.

It’s very concerning that the AMA opposes sex-selective, but has failed to take a stand against this Bill.

However, abortion remaining in the Criminal Code would mean that sex-selective abortion would remain illegal in Queensland.

ABORTION COERCION ADMISSION

The Health Committee failed to recommend safeguards for women seeking a termination of pregnancy – such as independent counselling, informed consent conditions and a cooling-off period. These measures are standard in many European countries abortion laws are glaringly absent in these laws.

Dr Carol Portmann, a later-term abortion provider in Brisbane, admitted at the Health Committee inquiry’s Brisbane public hearing that she sometimes performed abortions on women who were being coerced to have an abortion. Please see link here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp5GFqg-d64

For media enquiries, please call Cherish Life executive director, Teeshan Johnson.

1 https://www.sbs.com.au/news/could-gender-selective-abortions-be-happening-in-australia

“Could gender selection be happening in Australia?” SBS, 28 August 2015

2 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3203013/Gender-selection-abortions-happening-Australia.html Daily mail - "how Australian parents have shamefully aborted more than 1,400 babies in the last decade - just because they were girls - 19 August 2015

3 https://www.smh.com.au/healthcare/the-missing-girls-never-born-in-australia-20180811-p4zwxr.html The “missing girls’ never born in Australia, SMH 12 August 2018

4 https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/doctor-risks-his-career-after-refusing-abortion-referral/news-story/a37067e66ed4f8d9a07ec9cb6fd28cf5 “Doctors risks his career after refusing abortion referral.” Herald Sun - 5 October 2013

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