Daily Archives: October 8, 2008

Bernie Finn: The Case against Abortion

I would say, “Take a bow, Bernie Finn (Liberal MLC for the Western Metropolitan Region)”, but I don’t think he’s finished yet. I don’t know if he ever will be. He resumed speaking this evening at 8pm after having spoken most of the afternoon, and the house has just adjourned at 10pm. I guess so he can give his voice a rest. Seriously, I have heard of cases where, in ancient Rome, speakers held the floor for hours on end to delay a vote from taking place, but I have never heard such a fine demonstration of this tactic in this day and age.

Not that that seems to be his tactic. Rather, given the chance finally to debate the issue of abortion in that democratically elected and representative body which is charged with the duty of making laws for our State, Bernie has taken the opportunity to do a complete “Anatomy of the Case Against Abortion”. Truely, if you were to print off his speech from Hansard tomorrow, you would have a compendium – a vade mecum – of every reason why abortion should never ever be removed from the criminal code. Even if you are not a Victorian, or even an Australian, I would urge you tomorrow morning to click on this link and dowload Bernie’s speech. Warning: it will be the size of a small book!

For now, Bernie, my suggestion is go home, have a whisky, and rest your throat to resume your speech tomorrow morning at 10:15am.

And the rest of you, if you can, tune into the debate in the Legislative Council at this site here.

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Jan Kronberg MLC: Defender of the Unborn (Or: Jan is "not happy")

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.

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Senator Fielding "supports a woman’s right to abortion on demand"?

Such was the claim of Wendy Lovell in Parliament yesterday:

Another article in the Herald Sun of 26 September, one that I was a little surprised to read, reports Family First senator Steve Fielding as saying he supports a woman’s
right to abortion on demand, and quotes him as saying: ‘Some of these issues are never yes and no’, he said. ‘I’ve always said it is informed consent. It’s a very difficult decision. In the end it’s their decision’. I think he is right, it is a very difficult decision for any woman who chooses to access these procedures.

I must say I also found this claim surprising. Had I voted for a pro-abortion politician?!

Not being a reader of the Herald Sun myself (I prefer to read journalists who write with intelligence, even if they are wrong), I was unaware of this story. Here is a snip from the original story in the Herald Sun:

Senator Fielding, 47, said in a wide-ranging interview that he believed it was a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

“Some of these issues are never yes and no,” he said. “I’ve always said it is informed consent.

“It’s a very difficult decision. In the end it’s their decision.”

The position appears to be at odds with his party’s official policy which says: “Family First opposes abortion and shares the community’s view that the number of about 90,000 abortions in Australia each year is too high and should be reduced.”

But the very next day there was a clarification, also published in the Herald Sun:

Senator Fielding’s office responded by issuing a clarifying statement, saying he had been misinterpreted.

“Senator Fielding supports Family First policy, which opposes abortion,” it said.

“Senator Fielding is against abortion and he believes it is important that women have the support they need during difficult pregnancies.

“The focus for Family First is ensuring pregnant women have all the resources and support they require.

“Senator Fielding recognised that some women may in the end decide to have an abortion, even if extra support is offered.”

That didn’t satisfy the Victorian DLP MLC, Peter Kavanagh, but I reckon if you look at the way the interview was reported in the Herald Sun, you will see what happened. Note how the journalist prefaced Fielding’s statement with his own interpretation of what Fielding said, namely: “Senator Fielding…said…that…it was a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.” Fielding denies that this was what he said, and I agree. Taking the reported words at face value, he speaks simply of the need for “informed consent” when a woman is making a the “very difficult decision” to have an abortion – a decision which is, of course, always the woman’s decision under the current laws. In other words, he was calling for more information to be provided to women making this choice. Which is of course what the “clarification” issued the next day said.

I do think it was a bit unfair – even dishonest – for Ms Lovell to claim Senator Fielding as a supporter of the pro-choice cause in the light of this. See where bad journalism leads?

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Yesterday’s Hansard on the Abortion Law Reform Bill debate in the Legislative Council

You can read the Hansard of yesterday’s debate in the Legislative Council here – just go down the contents on the side until you get to “Abortion Law Reform Bill”.

From what I gather, debate resumes today at about 4pm. Listen to it live here.

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YouTube: "Stop the legalization of abortion in Victoria"

The link to this well made YouTube documentary on the Abortion issue in Victoria was provided anonymously in a combox below. I thought it would be worthwhile bringing it to the surface. My wife and I were very impressed by its quality.

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