A recent article in the Herald Sun reports that two Victorian couples are suing their doctors for failing to diagnose Down Syndrome in their unborn babies.
According to the report, both couples claim that they would have aborted their children had they known that their children would be born with Down Syndrome.
The article quotes Maurice Blackburn lawyer Kathryn Booth. “NSW, SA and Tasmania have legislated against such claims. But in Victoria, people can sue for compensation for the continuing costs of raising a child to the age of 18, where the child was born as a result of negligent care”, she said.
If the 200-odd comments posted under the online story are anything to go by, Australians have more sympathy for the children and the doctors, than for the parents.
Many of the comments point out that parents shouldn’t conceive if they aren’t prepared to accept the risk that their child might not be ‘perfect’. They also point out the dangers of a eugenic culture where we demand our children be ‘made to order’ and cull those who don’t make the grade.
Others point out the inevitable response from a medical profession which must increasingly practice to avoid litigation, rather than providing the best possible care.
Astoundingly, one of the parents taking legal action speaks about his daughter, who is now 4 years old: "Don't get us wrong: we love our daughter. She's part of our family, and we treat her like gold."
Lets get this straight – he loves her, but given the opportunity he would have killed her. More than that, he is so upset about not having been able to kill her, that he is willing to bring legal action.
Something doesn’t add up.
It’s a good thing the girl in question can not understand the nature of the legal action.
A couple of the comments online speak louder than the others. These speak about the great joy of raising a special child with a disability.
This brings us a little closer to the heart of the issue. Once we, as a nation, decide that our unborn children have no inherent right to their own lives, we open up a Pandora’s box of competing rights that doesn’t lead to freedom, but to greed, fear, and loss.
Comments by Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, associate professor of the John Paul II Institute, have also been published in the Herald Sun.
Social commentator, Bill Muehlenberg has also posted some insightful comments on his CultureWatch website.
Current alcohol laws are antiquated, and out of step with modern attitudes towards drinking. According to a recent poll conducted by one of Australia’s biggest brewers, the majority of teenagers believe that that alcohol providers should not face sanctions for supplying alcohol to minors. The authors have called for the decriminalisation of supply to minors.
There has been no survey of teenagers about their preferences for alcohol supply. However, in a remarkably similar exercise, the Medical Journal of Australia, journal of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), has recently published research that claims that a majority of Australians support decriminalisation of late term abortion.
An anonymous online survey of 1050 Australians aged 18 years or older was conducted between 28 and 31 July 2008. The survey used ‘contextualised’ questions, that is, it asked the respondents to apply certain circumstances to women close to them, and to specifically consider their responses in that context. The survey is not available for examination, but it appears that the research was focused on abortion after 24 weeks gestation, that is, beyond the age where babies are likely to survive outside the womb.
The Journal article describes the results: “Our study showed a high level of support for access to early abortion; 87% of respondents indicated that abortion should be lawful in the first trimester (61% unconditionally and 26% depending on the circumstances). In most of the clinical and social circumstances described in our survey, a majority of respondents indicated that doctors should not face professional sanctions for performing abortion after 24 weeks’ gestation.”
The release of the article was supported by a press release by the AMA claiming that ‘most Australians support late abortion’. An opinion piece by the authors was also released, drawing a link between the survey responses and the decriminalisation of late term abortion. Another, separate article by one author, espouses extreme views about the morality of late term abortion but has very little reference to the research.
The print media has readily taken up the material, with the Adelaide Advertiser, Courier Mail (Brisbane), Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian all running pieces on the story.
In examining the Journal article, supporting data (to the extent that this is available), and the claims of the authors, a number of inconsistencies become apparent.
Firstly, a note regarding the authorship of the article. Lachlan de Crespigny and Julian Savulescu are well known for their extreme views regarding termination of pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester. De Crespigny is also a provider of abortion services, being the man who delivered the fatal injection to the heart of baby Jessica at 32 weeks. Mark Textor is an owner of Crosby Textor which undertook the survey (as declared by the authors). Given that certain survey outcomes are both within the authors' interests and their influence, the study demands critical attention. It seems unlikely that the authors would have published the results and heralded them so loudly if the outcome were different.
Secondly, readers should remember the role and motivation of the AMA. As an industry lobby group, it is reasonable to expect that they will advocate for public policy that serves their members' interests best. What we should not expect, however, is that they will advocate for the wellbeing of either patients, or the wider society, particularly if this means curtailing their business.
Third, there is an implicit assumption put forward in both the research paper and the accompanying media releases that bears some examination. Both suggest that legislation should reflect the attitudes of society and current practise. Sounds reasonable on the surface, but the role of law is to limit the freedoms of some, to ensure the more basic freedoms of others. Outside of abortion, government is expected to constrain, even change, public attitudes. For example, dring driving, cigarette smoking, speeding. It would be ludicrous to conduct a poll to determine whether teenagers thought cigarettes should be legally available at an affordable price. Similarly, we don’t legalise paedophilia just because this is ‘current practice’ for some individuals. We elect good leaders who examine all the facts, and legislate for good social outcomes that benefit all members of society.
The study itself uses methods that distort the responses of the participants, and then misrepresents the results. This is psuedo-science at best, and at worst is a dodgy attempt to put some credibility into a campaign designed to manipulate the public and lawmakers.
The paper refers to ‘factual information about the proposed law change in Victoria’. It is not clear what kind of information this included. It is a fairly safe guess that it did not include reference to termination up until birth. It is also a a fairly reasonable assumption that no information about abortion procedures, the fate of the child involved, the lack of support available for women, high rates of coercion, or the psychological and physical risks was provided. The data therefore, at best, reflects the attitudes of those who are ignorant of the real nature of abortion, particularly late term abortion.
The method of questioning personalises the abortion decision by describing specific situations. It does not, however, personalise the experience of the other person involved (all references to babies were accompanied by the word ‘suffering’ so that the baby appears to benefit from his/her death), nor does it provide any personal stories of women’s grief and regret following abortion. The respondents’ answers are therefore skewed toward providing what appears to be a compassionate response to a request for an abortion. Perhaps a more truthful title would be “Survey shows most Australians wouldn’t prosecute doctors who save women’s lives.” No argument with that.
One of the questions asks respondents to indicate whether or not they thought that a doctor should face professional sanctions for performing an abortion after 24 weeks in certain circumstances, including three where there is risk to the life, physical health or mental health of the woman. The inference is that such situations exist. The continuation of a pregnancy may, in limited circumstances, create unacceptable risks that require termination of the pregnancy. However, the intentional death of the child is never a necessary part of any treatment after 24 weeks. These babies are likely to survive if given care. I doubt the respondents were aware of this.
The short preamble to questions regarding late term abortion focuses on a ‘grey zone’ between 22 and 26 weeks “where some foetuses have survived, most with ongoing disability, through major medical intervention.” This reference to disability and medical intervention skews the respondents’ answers toward cases of borderline viability when answering. The study, however, reports the responses as refering to any age following 24 weeks, implicitly including up until birth. I doubt that the respondents were thinking of fully developed babies when answering.
Finally, the conclusion by the AMA that “A majority of Australians support laws that enable women to access late abortion” is a misrepresentation of a survey about doctors’ professional liability. Nowhere did the survey ask if people thought late term abortion should be decriminalised. Why not ask the obvious? The answer is simple – there are many other outcomes of decriminalisation - an increase in the number of abortions (as we are currently seeing in Victoria), an increase in the level of coercion, an increase in the number of women experiencing severe after-effects, a decrease in our regard for the rights of the unborn etcetera.
Some critical thinking is required here. This report has nothing to do with research, and everything to do with the pro-abortion beliefs of the authors.
The question of legalisation is much more complex than doctors and their risk profile. This simplistic and deceptive approach is both self-serving and calculated. Those with a financial agenda use poor science to manipulate the media, politicians, and the wider public into believing that laws that protect our vulnerable citizens (born and unborn) should be removed, so that their businesses can flourish.
How about a real debate – lets talk about the real issues: coercion, regret, dead babies, infanticide, consciencious objection, physical risks, psychological carnage, big business, lack of care and support, lack of positive options, and social attitudes (towards rape, disability, young mums), to name a few. We must cut through the smoke and mirrors and have a look at what is really at stake – the lives of our children and the wellbeing of their parents. Australians deserve better than (late term) abortion.
The Australian Christian Lobby have also released a response to the AMJ article.
A GROWING number of induced babies are born alive following failed late-term abortions.
New Queensland Health figures show 19 babies were aborted at 20 weeks or more in 2007, but rather than dying at birth as intended, the newborns were able to breathe unaided.
The babies, some as advanced as 26 weeks, were aborted using drugs to induce labour. Once born, no medical help was offered and they died soon afterwards.
Former Queensland Health obstetrician Dr Caroline de Costa, now a professor at James Cook University in Cairns, said it was extremely distressing for parents and medical staff when terminations went wrong .
"If babies are born alive after this they are likely to die within a few minutes, although it can take up to half an hour," she said.
"We can only keep them wrapped up warm. It is up to the parents whether they want to see the child."
The figures - obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - reveal one in four abortions performed at 20 weeks and more went wrong in 2007, up 20 per cent on 2003.
The number of abortions carried out at 20 weeks and more is also increasing, up from 27 in 2003 to 75 in 2007. Medicare funds terminations up to 26 weeks.
In the same five-year period, there were 55 babies born alive after a termination procedure and not given medical treatment.
Ninety per cent of the 2007 terminations were due to congenital abnormalities.
Some were life-threatening, but they also included cleft palates and club feet.
As the pro abortion agenda in Queensland continues it’s relentless onslaught, media across the country have been decrying the plight of women who have been sent across the border into NSW to obtain the medical abortions that they ‘must have’.
The story of ‘Shay’ has been twice reported in The Australian, which cites her story as one of the reasons that Queensland legislation should be amended in response to the withdrawal of medical abortion services in some Queensland facilities.
Nineteen weeks pregnant, Shay was told that her baby was so severely malformed as to have no prospect of survival. She was subsequently advised by her obstetrician to terminate the pregnancy with a drug-induced abortion, according to one article in The Australian.
According to the other article, a surgical termination would create complications for her and husband Brad having other children, because the pregnancy was already into the second trimester.
One of the very worrying aspects of this story is some of the language used to decribe the young woman’s situation. Why is this an abortion she ‘must have’? Was Shay given any real choice? Or was she pressured, as so many women are, to get rid of the dodgy baby and get on with conceiving a better one? Not that those exact words are ever used, but the message is often clear.
Those with the courage to love their children despite even fatal abnormalities can experience great joy, and have the opportunity to grieve a natural loss, rather than having to grieve their own decision. Check out T.K. and Deidrea Lauxs experience with their son Thomas, or the story of baby Faith whose life mother Myah describes as the ‘best 93 days of my life’.
The unfortunate reality of abortion is that what starts as an opportunity, a ‘choice’, quickly becomes an expectation that ultimately robs us of true freedom. Women deserve better than abortion.
An article on a popular men's web site that offered advice on how to pressure or coerce your wife or girlfriend into an unwanted abortion has been removed after receiving a flood of criticism from people on both sides of the abortion debate, according to The Elliot Institute News.
The web site article described a situation in which a woman become pregnant after she and her partner agreed not to have a baby. The author, Isabella Snow, wrote about things the man could say to persuade the woman to have an abortion, even if it was unwanted.
Especially disturbing was the advice that the man threaten to withdraw his support if the woman has the baby anyway, which is a form of coercion. “This was her decision, not yours, and the bulk of the responsibility is now hers," Snow wrote. "Take a moment to spell this out for her when she gives you her final decision; it just may sway her over to your side."
Elsewhere in the article she tells men to back up their position by laying out the reasons they can't have a baby, asking questions about how they will afford the child or who will take care of the baby. According to the Elliot Institute, women and girls report that this is a technique often used at abortion businesses in the US to make them feel that they can't have the baby and that abortion is their only option.
Many readers expressed anger, disappointment and dismay at the author for endorsing and even encouraging coercive actions that can lead to unwanted abortions. Posts from male readers of the site express frustration and a sense of loss from abortion of their unborn children, indicating that abortion can hurt men as well as women.
There is strong evidence that many abortions are, in fact, unwanted or coerced.
A survey of American and Russian women who had abortions found that more than half of American respondents reported feeling rushed or uncertain about the abortion and 64 percent reported feeling pressured to abort by others. Given the similarities between Australian and US culture, coercion may be just as prevalent in Australia.
An increasing number of older women are having abortions, reported the Sydney Morning Herald on August 1. The article, inspired by research at the Department of General Practice at Monash University, and published in a letter to The Medical Journal of Australia, listed some of the reasons given by 50 women attending an abortion clinic in Melbourne.
According to the article, the researchers found that 80 per cent had a regular partner and at least one child. The most common reasons for termination were financial pressures, a focus on career or studies, already having dependent children or being emotionally unprepared for children. One-third cited one of these as their main reason for having an abortion.
Not mentioned in the article is that of the 50 women surveyed, 98% (all but 2) had previously undergone abortion.
In the US, almost half of the abortions that occur each day are repeat abortions. Long term Catholic pro life worker, Father Frank Pavone writes about this phenomenon:
Often the mother, pregnant the second time, thinks, "I aborted my first child. I'm not worthy of being a mother. I don't deserve this child." And she goes to the abortion mill. Repeat abortions are a sign of ambivalence, and at times of self-punishment.
Dr. Theresa Burke also explains, "Repeat abortions and replacement pregnancies are two common ways in which women reenact elements of their abortion trauma" (Forbidden Grief, p.110). … We repeat what we don't understand, in the hopes of mastering it.
Fr Pavone rightly points out, that the compassionate response to repeat abortions should not be ‘How can she do that?’, but ‘How can I help you to heal?’. “That question expresses the heart of the pro-life movement, a movement that knows that the destiny of mother and child are forever intertwined, and that we can't love one without loving the other.”
There has been a 29 per cent increase in women aged 30 to 50 terminating a pregnancy between 1996 and 2006. More research into all areas of abortion in Australia is vital.
Next month, a 19 year old Cairns woman will face a Queensland court, charged with procuring her own miscarriage, according to a report in The Australian on August 01. The woman allegedly imported mifolian and misoprostol, the ‘Chinese version’ of the abortion drug RU486.
The incident is odd, to say the least. As the President of Cherish Life (formerly Queensland Right to Life) has pointed out, similar drugs are readily available through an abortion clinic in Cairns.
What is not odd, is the mileage that the abortion industry and its proponents are making out of the woman’s situation. In what can only be described as a stunt, prominent Queensland abortion provider, Caroline de Costa has publicly stopped administering RU486, citing legal uncertainties arising from the case.
Ms de Costa and others have also taken the opportunity to call on the Queensland government to liberalise abortion legislation in that State[link], claiming that current laws are unclear. However, Doug Kerr, a Gold Coast lawyer and former president of Queensland Right to Life, told The Weekend Australian that to his knowledge no recipient of an abortion had been prosecuted under the criminal law.
The saddest part is that the woman and her 21 year old boyfriend have endured the very public loss of their child, because they believed that they were ‘too young’ to have a baby. Another one of those unspoken ‘rules’ about childbirth, and another lost child.
So many Australian women have succumbed to pressure to conform to strict social norms of family planning. The sooner we learn to embrace children (even surprise babies), to value parenthood, and to support Australian mothers, the better.