Go Jan!!! The best speech against the Abortion Law Reform Bill yet is currently being given by Jan Kronburg (Lib), of the Eastern Metropolitan Region. Tomorrow I will give an account of it from Hansard, but if this bill is finally defeated, it will be in large thanks to this speech.
At the same time, Damien Drum MLC (Nat) spoke strongly last night (at the same time employing the ancient Roman tactic of speaking until the session is adjourned…).
So far, my wooden spoon award goes to Jenny Mikakos MLC (Labor). Claiming to be a strong and faithful Greek Orthodox Christian, she goes on to support the bill:
As a practising Christian I could not choose abortion — that is my choice. I believe the potential for life begins at conception. The miracle of human development is something that amazes me, and the births of each baby by family members and friends have been the most joyous moments of my life. However, I am attracted to a quote by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who said: “Compassion is the basis of all morality.” I have enormous compassion for those women who find themselves in circumstances where they feel they must make the decision to have an abortion.
Well, yes. Of course. Compassion – and if anything, what we need is MORE compassion for those in this situation. But is offering an abortion to them the truly compassionate solution? Or is it opting out of going the hard miles with them? And how is it compassionate to the child invovled?
She goes on to quote American leader of the “new evangelicalism” Jim Wallis to this effect:
We contend today with both religious and secular fundamentalists, neither of whom must have their way. One group would impose the doctrines of a political theocracy on their fellow citizens, while the other would deprive the public square of needed moral and spiritual values often shaped by faith. In a political and media culture that squeezes everything into only two options of left and right, religious people must refuse the ideological categorisation and actually build bridges between people of goodwill in both liberal and conservative camps. We must insist on the deep connections between church and state that protect religious and non-religious minorities and keep us also from state-controlled religion. We can demonstrate our commitment to pluralistic democracy and support the rightful separation of church and state without segregating moral and spiritual values from our political life.
In otherwords, this is US-speak for “don’t make your political involvement a one-issue debate on abortion”. And in case you think I am misinterpreting Ms Mikakos, she herself says:
It is that with few exceptions many of the faith groups that have ritten to or contacted me about this bill have not contacted me before about proposed legislation or government policies. I do not mean to sound critical, as I think they have a legitimate role in the political process to express certain points of view. The point I make is that they should lobby MPs not only on so-called moral issues. I hope that Australian politics does not go down the path of American politics and that faith-based groups do not become fixated on issues like abortion and gay rights to the exclusion of all else.
Could it be that religious groups have written to her on this issue because abortion is an issue of an entirely different and more significant order than evironmentalism or economic policy? She has a lot to say about faith and reason, and church and state. But she gets the equation all wrong. It seems that in Ms Mikakos we have an example of what could be called “Cafeteria Orthodoxy”. Maybe someone could take pity on her and give her a gift subscription to “First Things”?
But I also want to acknowledge the speech of Edward O’Donohue MLC (Lib) who made the following argument:
I turn to the existing law. Legislators have a natural tendency to believe the solutions to all problems lie with a new law or a new regulation. However, new legislation can create new, sometimes unforeseen, consequences. In two short years in this place I have seen a number of amendment bills that were required to amend failings in a previously passed bill. With a topic as contentious as this one, we need to be absolutely clear and certain that new legislation does not create unforeseen problems. This is particularly the case where the current arrangements have worked, as they have, in my opinion, in a settled and reasonably clear fashion.
Australians instinctively understand this. The reason the 1999 referendum on a republic failed was not because of any overriding loyalty to Britain or the royal family but rather an understanding that our wonderful democracy, whilst not perfect, works effectively and has served Australia well….
I think, as the law currently sits in Victoria, we have a fair balance between respect for the individual and consideration for a potential other person. I do not accept the argument that there is a high degree of uncertainty at the moment with the law in Victoria. I do not accept that if this bill fails we will return to a pre-Menhennitt arrangement of backyard abortions that previous speakers have mentioned. I do not believe abortion law in Victoria, as it stands, is unnecessarily restrictive. It would appear from my investigations that abortions are relatively accessible, particularly in the early stages of a pregnancy, but there is no compulsion on doctors or hospitals to perform such a procedure — to me a reasonable position.
If you accept the proposition I have just put, that the law is reasonably settled, the question to me becomes: if the government wishes to maintain the status quo, why attempt to legislate in an area that is currently settled at law? It is my belief, however, that the bill goes beyond the status quo. In particular, clause 4 causes me concern. It allows terminations to occur up to 24 weeks gestation. As I said previously, while I believe in the right of a woman to choose, that right, in my opinion, should not be unfettered at 23 or 24 weeks. With modern technology some babies are now viable at 23 or 24 weeks gestation. The right to choose should not come without some consideration for what may be a viable baby. The argument made against this is that foetal abnormalities may not be detected until approximately a 20-week scan. I accept the terrible heartache and difficult decisions that women and their partners have to make when confronted with such a position. This should not mean that an abortion for a healthy foetus can take place without question at 24 weeks and six days. While the panel model in Western Australia and other models in other jurisdictions have attracted criticism and are by no means perfect, there must be a way to differentiate between late-term terminations for legitimate medical reasons and early terminations.
In my opinion the law in Victoria is reasonably settled. The common-law doctrine as defined by His Honour Justice Menhennitt has provided the basis for lawful terminations for nearly 40 years. The doctrine has been developed further in other jurisdictions, giving it greater legitimacy if it were ever tested here in Victoria. The
government states that this bill merely codifies current practice. If it merely codifies what already exists, given the way the law has operated it is unnecessary. To me the bill goes beyond Menhennitt, and in my opinion it goes too far. I oppose the bill.
Good on ya, Ed. Good argument.