Briefing Paper on Abortion Bills (for media)

EXTREME LEGISLATION WAS NOT FIT TO BE PASSED

The two Pyne abortion Bills were withdrawn because they were facing certain defeat in Parliament tonight (Wednesday, 1 March).

Decriminalising abortion through the first Pyne Bill Abortion Law Reform (Woman's Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016, which would have repealed Sections 224, 225, 226 and 282 of the Queensland Criminal Code, by definition would have left a vacuum, which would have allowed abortion at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason.

It is significant that the Queensland Parliament Health Committee inquiry unanimously recommended in its Report dated 26 August 2016 that the first Bill “not be passed”.

On 17 August, 2016 (before the Health Committee had handed down its report on his first Bill), Mr Pyne moved a second private member’s Bill, the Health (Abortion Law Reform) Amendment Bill 2016. This Bill sought to put some provisions into the Health Act to regulate abortion.

This Bill also was referred to the Health Committee for an inquiry, and the Report which was released on 17 February stated that “the committee was not able to reach agreement on whether or not the [second] Bill should be passed”.

In their Statement of Reservations at the back of the Report on the second Bill, the three LNP members of the committee said: “Has the legislation covering this very sensitive and emotional question been drafted in a manner that should be before a Parliament and is the process in which we are about to engage correct? We have a responsibility to pass clear and unambiguous legislation. We do not believe we are at that stage.”

Neither Pyne Bill was fit to be passed by Parliament, given the Health Committee rejected the first one unanimously and was deadlocked on the second one.

NO EFFECTIVE GESTATIONAL RESTRICTION: 24 WEEK LIMIT IN SECOND BILL WAS A CON JOB

Section 21 of the second Pyne Bill, entitled “Abortion on woman more than 24 weeks pregnant”, gave the impression that there would be an effective gestational restriction on late-term abortions. This is not the case, as is evidenced by this note at the end of the section:

“Note—
A failure by a doctor to comply with this section does not constitute an offence but may constitute behaviour
for which action may be taken under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Queensland), Part 8 or the Health Ombudsman Act 2013” (emphasis added).”

In other words, it would not have been a crime for a doctor to kill a viable unborn baby. If the doctor ignored this provision, he or she would have received no penalty other than potentially a slap on the wrist by a disciplinary body. A law without consequences is no law at all.

So this provision was just a con job to trick the public into thinking the legislation would protect viable babies. It wa window dressing to pretty up the first extreme Pyne Bill.

In any case, the requirement that abortions after 24 weeks had to be approved by two doctors was just a sham and a façade, as the second doctor was not required to see or speak to the patient, or even look at her file. Also, the second doctor did not have to be independent, so in the event that a late-term abortion took place in a private hospital or clinic it could be that the two doctors who would profit from the procedure would have approved the late-term abortion – an obvious conflict of interest.

In the absence of an effective and enforceable gestational restriction such as the provisions in the failed Infant Viability Bill 2015 in Victoria, there is no question that the Pyne Bills would have legalised abortion up to birth and at any stage of pregnancy.

ABORTION FOR ANY REASON INCLUDES GENDER SELECTION

The price of endorsing decriminalisation of abortion is that one ends up supporting abortion for reasons that almost every Queenslander would find abhorrent, such as gender selection.

The inconvenient truth is that abortion for any reason means legalising the killing of unborn baby girls, just because they are female.

There is evidence that gender selection 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 and Daily Mail Australia in 2015.

Also, in 2013 Dr Mark Hobart of Melbourne faced disciplinary charges for refusing to refer a couple for a sex selection abortion in Victoria.

There is no question that the Pyne Bills would have legalised abortion for any reason before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The second Pyne Bill said that after 24 weeks, a doctor must believe “that the continuation of the woman’s pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman than if the pregnancy were terminated.” This would be a highly contentious and subjective judgment which could not be challenged.

It was also a greatly watered-down test compared with the current law, which allows abortion only if it is “necessary to preserve the woman from a serious danger to her life or physical or mental health (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth) which the continuance of pregnancy would entail”.

It would have been easy for a doctor to justify an abortion for any reason after 24 weeks if Pyne’s second Bill had been passed. In any case, the current 24 week rule may as well not have been there, given it would not have been an offense if it were disregarded.

PYNE BILLS WOULD HAVE EXPANDED LATE-TERM ABORTION AND DESTROYED THE HEALTH CULTURE OF PUBLIC HOSPITALS

The Queensland Parliament Health Committee inquiry heard expert evidence from Queensland Health that 112 late-term abortions (past 20 weeks of pregnancy) had been performed in public hospitals and 18 in private hospitals or clinics in 2015 – a total of 130. These were abortions which presumably met the current test for a “therapeutic termination”, as opposed to 10,403 abortions for financial or social reasons which private clinics reported that year.

It is significant to note that Victoria, which decriminalised abortion in 2008, reported 358 late-term abortions in 2012-13 (the latest year for which we have figures), exactly half of which were for “psycho-social” reasons (emotional stress caused by factors such as desertion by a partner or financial pressures) and half were for foetal abnormality.

The fact is that if the Pyne Bills had been passed, Queensland public hospitals would have to do abortions for any reason, including late-term abortions for “psycho-social” reasons.

Former director of maternal and foetal medicine at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and now an obstetrician in private practice who performs mid-term abortions, Dr Carol Portmann, told the Health Committee inquiry into the first Pyne Bill that in the event of decriminalisation she expected the proportion of all abortions performed by public hospitals to rise from the current 2% to “20 to 25%” of the total.

Over time, decriminalisation would cause Queensland Health to abandon its current “health culture” and replace it with a culture that abortion is “part of routine medical care”, according Dr Portmann.

Inevitably, the overall number of abortions would have increased as a result of this free service, and due to the fact that whenever something is legalised, the incidence of it always rises, as the law plays a role in educating the community regarding moral values (think pokies and brothels).

‘PROTECTED AREAS’ PROVISION WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND WOULD HAVE CRIMINALISED MOTHERS AND PARTNERS

No one supports women being harassed or intimidated, and there are laws in place to prevent this already. However, the second Pyne Bill would have made it an offense to peacefully protest, or perhaps even to pray, within 50 metres of an abortion facility. This abrogation of freedom of speech, expression, movement and religion would have been an affront to democratic rights.

The Parliament is the defender of freedom of speech and religion.

So why would the Parliament have supported legislation that would have seen trained volunteers, peaceful protesters, people praying and those offering informed consent information fined and possibly imprisoned?

The Parliament must reject criminalising citizens who wish to peacefully oppose abortion, while protecting those who carry it out for financial gain.

The second Pyne Bill ironically described proposed no-protest zones around abortion clinics as "protected areas". Of course, there is no protection inside abortion clinics for either mother or baby, as with every abortion, the toll is one dead, one wounded.

The committee heard from a constitutional law expert that Section 24(2)(c) 

“a protest, by any means, during the
protected period for the facility relating to
the performance of abortions in the facility” 

would be unconstitutional.

Furthermore, Cherish Life received independent legal advice that Section 24(2)(b)

“(b) an act that can be seen or heard by a person
during the protected period for the facility, and intended to stop a person from—
(i) entering the facility; or
(ii) having or performing an abortion in the Facility”

effectively would have stopped medical staff in a hospital or clinic where abortions were provided from providing full information and would have silenced them from providing advice to patients other than to proceed with an abortion.

It also would have prohibited anyone in the protected area around a facility from even speaking to a family member to try to talk [her] out of having an abortion. This provision potentially would have criminalised a mother wishing to speak to her daughter to tell her that she will support her in an unexpected pregnancy and encourage her to continue; or a partner, wanting to reassure his wife or girlfriend that he does not want her to abort the baby.

THE BILLS FAILED TO PROVIDE SAFEGUARDS FOR WOMEN

In the Statement of Reservations at the back of the Report on the second Pyne Bill, the three LNP members of the committee also said: “Further, do the Bills deal with all issues that should be dealt with? That is, are there unintended consequences and consequential amendments that will eventually need to be implemented? In short, has there been adequate consideration of all issues?”

Well might this have been asked.

The law on abortion should have safeguards for women and particularly be addressing a woman’s right to know.

The following findings are from the most recent comprehensive market research on abortion in Queensland, a Galaxy opinion poll in May 2016. See What Queenslanders Really Think About Abortion (2016).

Ninety-four percent of Queenslanders believe that before having an abortion, a woman should receive free independent counselling and information on the development of her unborn baby, the nature of the procedure, the physical and psychological risks of the operation and the alternatives of keeping the baby or adoption, so that she can make a fully informed decision.

The Pyne Bills were seriously deficient in that they did not address any of these issues.

This bill should have included a requirement for mandatory independent counselling before abortion, including the provision of an informed consent booklet similar to the one provided to women seeking an abortion in the ACT between 1999 and 2002, which included information on the nature of the procedure, the physical and psychological risks of abortion, the development of the unborn child, alternatives to abortion and support agencies. There also was a mandatory cooling-off period of 72 hours or 3 days.

These requirements co-existed in the ACT Health Act alongside the law in the Crimes Act under which an abortion was legal only if a doctor was satisfied that the woman’s life or physical or mental health was in serious danger from carrying on the pregnancy.

It is of interest to note that the Sunday Mail in Adelaide on 25 July 2004 reported a significant reduction in the number of abortions performed at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide.

In South Australia, the law is that there are no private abortion clinics; it is all done through public hospitals. In 2003, the hospital changed its policy and made independent counselling by social workers mandatory and it led to a drop of 25% in the number of abortions at that hospital over the next 12 months.

There are a lot of unwanted abortions which mandatory independent informed consent counselling could prevent.

Often, there is not free and informed choice by women. There is a lot of coercion by parents, boyfriends, partners or husbands. Women often go into a private abortion clinic which is operating for profit and are not properly or fully counselled, especially about health risks. They are in effect sold an abortion.

As for parental consent, 75% of Queenslanders believe this should normally be required for girls under the age of 16 to have an abortion. Of course, 16 is the age of consent in so far as sexual relations are concerned. It is outrageous that under current case law, Queensland parents have no rights at all in deciding whether their under-age daughters can or should have an abortion. It is totally unacceptable that this has been taken out of the hands of parents. In normal circumstances, they should be involved in the decision-making process on such a major life decision. The statute law needs to be changed to give parents their rights back, so they can protect their daughters from the harm of abortion.

QUEENSLANDERS WERE OPPOSED TO THESE EXTREME BILLS

The most recent comprehensive market research on abortion in Queensland, a Galaxy poll in May 2016, found that 42% of Queensland voters thought the current law was “about right” and 11% thought it was “not restrictive enough” – making 53% who were opposed to making abortion laws more permissive. Furthermore, 85% of Queenslanders are opposed to abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 72% are opposed to abortion past 13 weeks.

This gold standard research shows that only 6% of Queenslanders support the extreme position proposed by the Pyne Bills, which is abortion for any reason until birth. See What Queenslanders Really Think About Abortion (2016).

We note that Fair Agenda commissioned Essential Research to conduct an opinion poll on Queensland abortion law reform, which was released last week.

The results of the Essential Media poll are flawed because the first question is a leading question which says that “a woman or doctor can be sentenced to jail time”.

While that is technically true, it is not the whole truth – as no woman has ever been convicted, much less jailed, in the 118 years the abortion law has been in place in Queensland.

This is because when prosecutions have been brought against doctors for illegal abortion, the woman has invariably been a witness for the Crown.

To suggest that a woman who has an abortion is at risk of going to jail is false and misleading and calls into question the entire findings of the Essential Research survey.

Furthermore, the Essential Media survey provided respondents with no context around the actual situation with abortion in Queensland, i.e. there are more than 10,000 abortions performed each year under the current law.

This makes the result of the question as to whether “abortion should remain a criminal offense” unreliable.

Besides market research, the largest ever protest rally outside Parliament House with almost 4,000 people after the March for Life on 11 February on one of the hottest days in the year is a strong indication of public opposition to the Pyne Bills.

Also, look at the submissions.

The two Health Committee inquiries into the abortion bills received a combined 2,726 submissions over the two bills on abortion. What is the usual number?

Recent examples:
Domestic Violence: 20 submissions
Rail Safety: 2 submissions
Child Protection: 12 submission Disability Services: 5 Submissions Child Vaccinations: 45
Pyne Abortion Bill no. 1: 1,450
Pyne Abortion Bill no. 2: 1,276
And 83% of these abortion submissions were against the Bills!

And the Petitions.

Two massive petitions totalling 55,604 signatures, with the second one being the biggest Parliamentary e-petition in more than 5 years!

MYTHS LAID TO REST

“Abortion is a normal medical procedure.”

This is nonsense. There is no other medical procedure where one of the individuals concerned dies every time. Abortion is only a medical procedure in the same way that execution by lethal injection is a medical procedure. Indeed that is exactly the way one abortion technique – feticide - is done. Abortion is in the Criminal Code for good reason - because it is the killing of an innocent human being.

“It’s difficult to access an abortion in Queensland.”

With more than 10,000 Medicare-funded surgical abortions and no doubt many thousands of chemical abortion performed each year in 16 Queensland clinics, that is obviously not true.

“Abortion may be necessary in a medical emergency.”

There is no such thing as an “emergency” abortion. Abortion is understood by the public to mean an operation or procedure which has the intention of killing an unborn child.

Thirty-eight years ago, the world’s leading fetologist, Sir William Liley, of New Zealand, who performed the first inter-uterine blood transfusion, said: “The only thing medical about abortion is that doctors do them and must handle the complications afterwards. No matter how bad mother’s heart disease, renal complaint, diabetes or mental illness, no one would be suggesting abortion was essential if mother wanted the baby.” The truth is that abortion is a medical solution to a social problem.

There are some serious threats to a pregnant women’s health that may arise prior to the age of viability, in which a pregnancy may have to be terminated, but these are not abortions in the commonly understood meaning of the word and of course there is no ethical objection to saving the mother’s life.

For example, with an ectopic pregnancy, if nothing is done to remove the embryo lodged in the fallopian tube, the mother may die as well as the baby.

When a pregnant women is diagnosed with cancer of the womb and has to have a hysterectomy, this is also a situation where if nothing is done, both mother and baby may die.

There is certainly never a situation in which a viable unborn baby (i.e. after 23 weeks in Australia) needs to be killed to save the mother’s life.

For example, if the mother has a serious condition such as pre-eclampsia (the symptoms of which include high blood pressure and fluid retention) and the pregnancy needs to be ended, the best way to do this typically is by caesarean section which would result in the health issue being resolved quickly, the mother recovering and her baby being given every chance to survive with the best neo-natal care.

There is no need to put the mother’s health further at risk by the necessary delay involved in performing a late-term abortion through feticide, which involves killing the baby in the womb by an injection of potassium chloride into the heart, and then inducing labor whereby the mother delivers a dead baby several days later.

And there is no need to abort a baby with conditions which are incompatible with life outside the womb (such as anencephaly), as the best and kindest approach for both mother and baby is, not to destroy the baby in the womb, but to allow birth to take place after the normal age of viability and let the mother and other family members cuddle and comfort the baby until he or she dies naturally.

If a mother wants to end a late-term pregnancy, there is no reason why the baby has to be killed in the process. There are plenty of infertile couples who would love to adopt an unwanted baby. There are long adoption waiting lists in Australia, and in 2015 there were only 54 adoptions of Australian-born children to non-relatives. This is due in large measure to the fact that approximately 80,000 unborn children are killed by abortion in this country every year.

“Abortion is safer than childbirth”

There is overwhelming evidence about the serious physical and psychological effects of abortion on women. Most women are not being fully informed of these risks, so they cannot make a free and informed choice.

Physical risks include infection, haemorrhage, infertility and breast cancer. Psychological risks include depression and other mental illness, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and general poor self-esteem.

A gold standard 30 year longitudinal study on abortion and mental health was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 by Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, J.H. and Boden J.M.

A self-described pro-choice atheist and rationalist, Dr David M. Fergusson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand, undertook his first investigation with the expectation that his cohort data would prove that the apparent link between abortion and mental health problems would be explained by pre-existing factors. Instead, his data revealed that abortion was an independent "risk factor for the onset of mental illness."

The study found abortion increased the risk of suicide ideation by 61%, the risk of major depression by 31%, the risk of anxiety disorder by 131%, the risk of alcohol dependence by 188% and the risk of illicit drug dependence by 185%.

A most enlightening but disturbing article on the mental health consequences of abortion is Women, Abortion and the Brain, by Professor Evelyn Vitz, of New York University, published in The Public Discourse on 21 September, 2009.

The harm done by abortion to women is brought home by watching videos of the personal stories of Emma and Madeleine at www.abortionrethink.org


For more information, please contact:

Julie Borger
President
Cherish Life Queensland
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile 0412 692 343

Chris Da Silva
Director of Communications and Marketing
Cherish Life Queensland
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile: 0433 775 429