Rachel Carling-Jenkins at the 2016 Cherish Life Dinner

Video Transcript

Thank you very much. I appreciate that introduction. It's certainly a privilege and an honor to be here tonight to meet with all of you. And I think my role in being here tonight is to encourage you as we journey together to fight for life from conception to natural death.

It's a real privilege to speak to a friendly crowd because I speak so much to an anti-life parliament. And I look around this room and I see so many people who are contributing to the pro-life cause here in Queensland which is actually my home state, so very close to my heart. And I want to commend everyone's commitment here tonight to fight against Pyne's abortion laws here in Queensland.

I believe that we are, in our part of the world, at a very critical point in our history. It's a time when we must work together, putting aside our differences which always arise when we're working with people, let's be honest, when we work together for the common good.

So tonight, I was given the topic of talking about the highs and the lows and everything in between of campaigning against abortion in Victoria. And I think the main message I want to convey tonight is what you can learn from the Victorian experience. We are a cautionary tale for Queensland.

It is so hard to turn the tide on abortion laws once they have been passed. We are now stuck in Victoria with the worst abortion laws imaginable. We have abortions to birth. We regularly have babies being born alive as a result of abortion who have no right to life.

We have 'no go' zones around clinics, any clinic where an abortion is performed including a GP clinic where RU-486 is dispensed and most of our hospitals.

Holistic care for women is a foreign concept to many in our medical profession. There is little recognition of the concept of hospice in the womb and we completely dismiss babies with disabilities in our state.

This is a really hard environment for people like us to work in because I am pro-life from conception to natural death. And if I had my way, there would be no abortions performed in Victoria or indeed anywhere in Australia.

And I think I need to be really clear on this point because as a politician, I also need to be realistic and go for what is winnable and achievable. And once laws are passed and go unchallenged for years and years and years, eight years in our case, it's a rough road to turn them back. So I chose to go after late-term abortion for my bill because Galaxy Polling showed us that a majority of Victorians were against late-term abortion.

Now I see here on the screen that Queensland is 85% opposed. We're 70% opposed. So that's even quite a difference in Victoria. Once you have laws, like we have in Victoria, the whole society starts to erode. But, it was a tough call, but that's what I started to go after.

So in 2015, I introduced the Infant Viability Bill. This bill aimed to protect babies of viable gestational age from termination. I can count literally on one hand the number of people who share similar values to mine in Victoria's upper house.

And those of us who believe in Judeo-Christian values are truly in the lion's den. We get trolled on the internet. Even getting Facebook messages while we're in the Chamber from people in the gallery telling us that we're idiots. We're maligned in the press. We're verbally attacked in Parliament House. Security often follow us around. And we face constant attempts to have our voices silenced.

So during my campaign, I was offered bribes to take my bill off the table and not bring it to debate. I could've lived a very comfortable life, but now is not the time to be silent. Now is not the time to take bribes. The bill made people nervous and that's a good thing because MPs in Victoria were uncomfortable with having to stand up and admit to assenting to the destruction of viable babies. They were uncomfortable, and so they should have been, with having to stand up and admit to denying women the opportunity to be cared for in a holistic way.

Imagine this, the socialist left, as I often refer to them, is actually denying mothers in Victoria from counselling and support around difficult or unexpected pregnancies. And they simply don't like being called out on this. I sought to bring out the elements of the abortion law which they particularly wished to hide and it embarrassed them because their usual arguments around women's choice weren't working.

So the Infant Viability Bill was the first piece of pro-life legislation seen in Victoria since the Crime's Act made abortion a criminal offense in 1958. We then had our awful abortion laws come in in 2008. My bill had three sections, very briefly:

First section, I introduced a concept of holistic care for mother and baby from 24 weeks' gestation. Now, I don't think we should have to introduce the concept of holistic care for women, but in Victoria, we absolutely do because it is much more accepted to have an abortion than to carry your baby to term, if there's even the slightest "problem", for want of a better word. And I want to just emphasis half of our late-term abortions are for psychosocial reasons. So mothers that feel unable to cope for reasons such as homelessness or they feel suicidal and we're not giving these women any hope, we're just taking their baby away and expecting them to then cope.

The second section of my bill sought to protect the number of babies that are born alive in Victoria. It would have protected those babies, for example, with disabilities or illnesses who may not survive long outside the womb, but provide them with appropriate palliative care as opposed to the death sentence which they so often get at the moment. I tried to take a real life-affirming approach to the bill so even if a baby, if this section had been passed, had been intended for death through abortion, if they were born alive, they would have had to be cared for appropriately.

At the moment, they're not. They're left on shelves to die. They're put in buckets, literally, in Victoria. And unfortunately, women from all over Australia are coming to Victoria for their abortions. And I was in New Zealand recently and found out after 20 weeks, they put their women on a plane and send them to Melbourne for their late-term abortions as well. It was quite embarrassing.

And then section three, the third section of my bill, would have introduced the definition of late-term abortion as intentionally causing the death of a child from 24 weeks' gestation and make it illegal to do so. I felt that this was a necessary step, but it was defeated, overwhelmingly defeated. I had 11 votes for. Out of 40, 11 votes for. Three from the ALP, three from the Liberal Party, two Shooters and Fishers, two National Party members, and myself. It's pretty light on, isn't it? And that means two people abstained, two people decided they couldn't make a decision, they promised to vote for the bill but they walked out, and 27 people voted against.

Clearly, the Victorian Parliament is not representing the people. And clearly, they are forgetting that pro-lifers vote. "My body - my choice" is the argument most people used to silence our pro-life stance. However, to me, "my body - my choice" also means "my problem". Women are being actively blamed for pregnancy. And I'd like to know what happened to "it takes a village to raise a child"? What happened to broader responsibility? And what happened to valuing the role of the father? And what happened to valuing motherhood? How did we get to this point?

And some of this feels like a rhetorical question, but I think we need to ask them. How did we find ourselves in a society which prefers death over providing support, genuine and practical support to women? And how did we find ourselves in a society which prefers death over giving respect, genuine respect to mothers and to motherhood? And how did we find ourselves in a society which prefers death, a quick fix, because children are viewed as problematic rather than as the gifts that they are, where children are so devalued, that their lives mean so little that a pregnancy is seen as an inconvenience, a disruption of a lifestyle and is wrong?

I truly believe that abortion arises out of a lack of choice. It is not the embodiment of choice. And I don't know about you, but when I hear the word abortion, I think of things like coercion, vulnerability, betrayal. I feel sad, my heart aches. I remember the two children I have waiting for me in heaven whom I lost in miscarriage. I don't feel judgmental or morally superior in any way. I just simply remember what it feels like to be a woman who is pregnant and feeling vulnerable.

Abortion hurts women. It fails women. It harms women. And quite simply, it kills children. We must work together toward systematically, methodically and deliberately eliminating the reasons for abortion.

I'm a great fan of some of the writing of Serrin Foster. She's Feminists for Life in the US, and she calls abortion the betrayal of the modern woman, especially women who are poor, young, working or all three. She describes that by then demanding for women the right to submit to these injustices by destroying their pregnancies, by saying essentially that women need relief from pregnancy, we have ignored the argument that women need relief from the prejudice and discrimination surrounding motherhood in our society today because we all know in this room that abortion solves nothing and we mourn the loss of thousands of children across our nation.

We must focus on promoting and supporting the human flourishing of mothers, of fathers and their children and to take a life-affirming approach for all. And this is what my bill in part focused on. And I will admit in part because it focused on viable pre-born children, it was a small but it was an important attempt to roll back the laws.

And what we must do now is maintain our rage at the horror of abortion. And we must look forward to a day where fatherhood is celebrated and honored, where motherhood is respected and supported and where every child is cherished.

So tonight I think that we can focus on some real positives. We can focus on the positive of uniting together, to take a stand against the injustice of the abortion industry. And make no mistake, it's an industry which makes a lot of money in Victoria.

For $7,500, you can purchase your late-term abortion. It's an industry of death and it's an industry which at this stage is winning. It's an industry which has successfully lobbied to deny people from helping women when they're entering abortion clinics.

And it's an industry in Victoria which has already flagged their next step as infanticide. The conversation around infanticide or forced trimester abortion which is three months post-birth was started in 2012 in Victoria when two ethicists actually called for legislation in this area. This was a testing of the waters and it will become a reality either directly if the Greens and the Sex Party - because we have a member of the Sex Party in our Parliament - continue to grow and dominate our Parliaments or indirectly when Assisted Dying Bill is introduced into Parliament with broad support from all sides of Parliament.

The fight for life needs to become a feature of our state elections. It cannot be forgotten across all jurisdictions because pro-life votes matter. I believe everyone has a role to play, so we need MPs.

Many people see politics as a dirty game which particularly Christians should not be part of and that's actually how I was brought up. It was a dirty game and particularly women didn't get involved in it. My dad is recovering. And such an attitude does need to change because we need to be represented and we deserve to be represented. And the reality is if we are not represented, we have no hope of stemming the tide.

Remember, 11 people out of 40 voted for my bill. That's not good. It's not good numbers. So we need MPs in both major and minor parties.

I want to thank my DLP colleagues for being here tonight. We're a small party, but I believe we punch above our weight. And I also want to commend Mark Robinson here tonight. He is a brave man and I would describe him here in Queensland as a conviction politician, not a career politician.

And I believe we also have a very brave senator in the room from One Nation, Malcolm Roberts. I haven't met Malcolm yet. Very brave of you to come tonight. I look forward to meeting you, Malcolm. And of course we need our lobbyists.

We need organizations like Cherish Life who are doing a fantastic job. They're doing practical work which gives the lobbying work they do legitimacy. They organize the March for Life. They educate, that's a very big role.

There were so many people in Victoria when we were starting to campaign on the bill who had no idea that we had late-term abortion. I would go into parishes and the priest would come up to me afterwards and go, "I didn't know, I didn't know that's what we were doing."

A lot of pastors were saying, "I had no idea. Do you think I should start talking to my congregations about that?" Yes, I think that would be a very good idea. But if we don't have the education, if we don't have that means of communication, people don't know.

And of course, Cherish Life also have a brilliant branch structure throughout this great state of Queensland which is quite hard because it's quite geographically large. And I do think that Julie and Andrew do a fantastic job and I think we should just pause and clap for them.

We also need groups like ACL with their ability to gain media attention on their issues, their presence on Q&A, their ability to talk directly to MPs from different persuasions. And I commend Wendy Francis' work here in this state.

And we need the pro-life groups that are represented in this room tonight, too numerous to mention, but all with their unique angle and their unique niche. We need them all, and we need to work together.

And of course, we need donors. The ability to get our message out there is very important. And of course, organizations like Cherish do not get government funding so we need to help them to continue their vital work.

I believe that the campaign for my bill brought out the best of us all in Victoria. It united the MPs, the lobbyists and the donors together with a common cause. And I think the campaign here to oppose the legislation in Queensland will be doing the same thing, bringing out the best in all of us. With all groups sitting together to plan, to plot the course with a common goal.

And we must remember, this is a marathon, it's not a sprint. And reflecting on this always reminds me of William Wilberforce who's already been quoted tonight.

William Wilberforce fought to end slavery. He valued conviction over comfort, tenacity over temporary gain, and devotion over indifference. It took Wilberforce 20 years to achieve his aim of abolishing slavery, but he continued with a dogged determination that you see in so few MPs today. And I love reflecting on his example because we now look back at slavery and we are appalled at the treatment slaves received and we're horrified at the very idea that one person could own another, aren't we?

In the decades to come, I pray that we look back at this era appalled at the babies we killed, horrified that we would enslave women in human trafficking, embarrassed that we would ever consider deliberately shortening the life of another, dismayed that we allowed a generation of children to be deprived of a biological identity through forced adoptions to gay couples, and in absolute disbelief that we ever thought that embryos should be used for research.

And I pray that when we look back we can say this, "When it counted, I did not run. "I did my best and I stood up for what I knew was right. "I contributed to the abortion laws being stopped in Queensland." "I protected the vulnerable from euthanasia and I played a role in caring for children."

I just want to encourage everyone here tonight that even if your contribution seems small, that we should never underestimate what you do.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 if you don't mind me quoting the Bible says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." This is something I reflect on often.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do that with all of your might. Everyone in this room has something that they can be doing and most probably are doing with all of their might. I'm going to give you some examples.

Maybe you knit tiny booties and tiny hats for women who have a lost a child through miscarriage. If so, one such set of booties and hats found its way to me when I lost my third child. I keep it in my desk drawer at work as a reminder of why I do what I do. You never know from the little things you do whom you might inspire.

Maybe you were at the 2013 March for the Babies in Victoria. That was a particularly violent rally. I was there on my own because I couldn't get anyone from my church to go with me. And people ran through the crowd. They ripped signs off people. They stomped on them. They actually punched the keynote speaker and Bernie Finn. And there was one woman in particular that I remember. She was an elderly woman. She had made a homemade sign to take. It had been ripped out of her hand. She'd been left bleeding and I was trying to help her patch it up. And it was at that point that I decided someone needed to stand up for this crowd and that I would be an MP.

You never know who you might inspire. Maybe you pray every morning and every night for a change. If so, you imbue people with strength to continue to devote their energy beyond their physical limitations.

Maybe you volunteer your time at the church playgroup, contributing to the lives of children and providing valued support for parents. Maybe you have skills that you simply have not realized yet or skills that you're not yet using. Be encouraged. Whatever your hand finds to do, big or small, do that with all of your might.

Martin Luther King Jr said, "Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter." Many of you in this room have not been silent, but maybe you're discouraged with slow progress and maybe you're evaluating your next step. I'm here to encourage you and to thank you for not being silent about the things that matter because quite simply, we are called to action and we must act.

We simply cannot be passive bystanders when it comes to the injustice of abortion. Let us not stand by. Let us not stand back. And let us not ever be silent. Thank you.