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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14 responses to “Jan Kronberg MLC: Defender of the Unborn (Or: Jan is "not happy")

  1. Arabella-m

    David,

    What do you think of Bernie Finn’s approach? Maybe he is a bit too personal in his attacks on those who support abortion!

    On the positive side it was good to see him defend the disabled by speaking about that discrimination involved by those who believe abortion in late term pregnancy is OK if the infant has abnormalities.

    A.

  2. Schütz

    Yes, quite something, eh? A Lutheran member of the Adhoc group thinks he is being a bit strident, but I think he is doing great. He is showing the best example of public oratory that I have heard yet in this debate. Yes, he is going on and on, which probably won’t win him any brownie points [at this point, he is currently the front candidate for the “SCE Filibuster Award”!], but everything he says is spot on. On top of that, he isn’t boring. I could listen to priests preach for hours if they could preach this well.

  3. Anonymous

    Jim Wallis is referring to those Right wing Christians-largely Pentecostal and or Baptist- who believe in post millenialism as a theonomy,and that political action will usher in a Christian society complete with Old testament laws ie a Christian form of Sharia.In reality they are just as mistaken as Wallis who pursues a millennialism albeit with a Christian socialist context. For a good reading on this subject John Jefferson Davis’s “The Victory of Christ’s Kingdom” is an excellent read.
    However,we should be pressurising politicians over various issues,but the moral values ,and especially as they relate to life take precedent ahead of others.

  4. Schütz

    Yes, Wallis is referring to these folk, but not only to these folk. He is referring to all those evagelical Christians who (for some strange reason) think that the moral issues surrounding human life and family are more important than other political issues.

    Go to this article about the “Evangelical Manifesto” in First Things for more info.

  5. matthias

    Schultz I like that moral issues about life and family are more important than others. It is bit like homosexuality being singled out as a worse sin than adultery.
    There is a connectedness,and I think that the one example is the fact that abortions can be seen as one of the ultimate forms of disability discrimination.

  6. Schütz

    About disability discrimination – Bernie Finn has made that point strongly – he has two disabled children of his own.

    About homosexuality being a worse sin than adultery? Well, first of all, I take it you mean “homosexual activity” and “homosexual orientation” (the latter would be sinful only if indulged). But about your actual claim? I don’t know about that. Adultery (homosexual or heterosexual) involves hurting a spouse as well as a sexual act outside marriage. It’s comparing apples and oranges, I think. Their both sinful, but I wouldn’t like to get into an argument about which is “more” sinful.

  7. Tony

    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 involved?

    I’m not a Victorian so it’s hard to comment on the specifics, but this statement above seems so important to me.

    My perception of the way the church and pro-life groups condribute to the dialogue on abortion is that vociferous, one sided, hostile debate is more important than compassion on the ground.

    To me the YouTube video was about the best I’ve seen in a long time, but even then it slipped into type by, for example, the way it made a note of there being very few kids on ‘the other side’.

    How does that add to an otherwise reasonable treatment of the issue?

    How, in terms of the balance of its resource allocation, does the church become the focus of offering (practical) compassion to women facing these decisions? I know there are quite wonderful people doing this, but it seems to be on such a small scale and a scale that is not particularly well supported by the church.

    The church should be ‘resourcing compassion’ and shouting from the rooftops that it will provide long term support for women who feel they can’t face bringing life into the world.

    We won’t win by being ‘right’ in a demo or an argument, we will win by being trusted by women — especially by women outside the church.

    Where does a clever filibuster get us in this context?

  8. Peregrinus

    I, too, did a double take at what Matthias wrote. Who exactly – other than Matthias himself – “singles out” homosexual actions as a worse sin than adultery? The church isn’t in the habit of drawing up magisterial “league tables” of sins. but it does seem to me that adultery has several “dimensions of wrongness” that homosexual actions lack. You’ve already pointed, David, to the injury done to a spouse, and to that we must add, in many cases, injury to other family members and to the family as a unit. And of course adultery also involves the violation of a covenant solemnly and freely given to God and to the community.

  9. Arabella-m

    Regarding Jenny Mikakos’ speech – she is a member of Emily’s List and therefore committed to a ‘pro-choice’ stance.

    The Emily’s List site states “Jenny is a strong supporter of EMILY’s List principles”.

    http://www.emilyslist.org.au/candidates/candidate.asp?id=213

  10. Schütz

    Tony,

    It is important not to lump all pro-life lobbies into the same basket.

    In case you are not aware, there is a sharp split between groups – especially between those officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church and those not.

    The difference is not one of opinion on the moral issues themselves, but on the strategies and goals of the two kinds of groups.

    The Catholic Church officially supports peaceful, respectful, rational defence of life from conception to natural death. It seeks to do so in a way that is especially concerned about all who experience suffering and hardship in these very difficult situations.

    We distance ourselves – literally – from those who use abusive, shock tactics, and whose goals are focuses simply on legal bans on these immoral actions.

    This division harms the pro-life lobby, but is necessary to maintain our good reputation in the community so our voice can be heard.

    Unfortunately, as your comment demonstrates, few people get the distinction.

  11. Tony

    It is important not to lump all pro-life lobbies into the same basket.

    And, no doubt, it’s important to similarly treat the pro-choice lobbies.

    Unfortunately, as your comment demonstrates, few people get the distinction.

    That’s really why I talked about perception. As someone who is a Catholic and who cares about this issue, I see no evidence of that split (although I don’t doubt your word at all), I see divisiveness and polarity. I see a situation where there is no middle ground. I see it on this blog too.

    Not wishing to rake over old coals, you just have to suggest that there are other ways of looking at the issue and you’re immediately branded as pro-choice or not sufficiently pro-life or whatever.

    You have to step back a little to see that you contribute to that.

    The church’s ‘official’ position is unimpeachable IMO, but that’s not what people hear.

    In the meantime, for the women at the coalface, there is a kind of vacuum because they don’t necessarily feel comfortable in either camp and simply can’t relate to the hostility when they’re trying to make a tough moral decision. Is it any wonder that so many choose what they believe is the path of least resistance?

    Is anyone on the pro-life side willing to, for example, face what Pere contends here?

    … abortion rates in the US tend to rise under “pro-life” administrations and fall under pro-choice administrations …

    and

    … It’s unfortunately not true that there is a simple correspondence between pro-life votes, or pro-life legislation, and a reduction in abortion …

    and

    … Too much emotional, political or other energy put into political and legislative campaigns is at best a waste of resources, and in my view can easily be counterproductive, actually fuelling the pressures that lead women to chose abortions …

    Is there anyone in the pro-life movement who is not so caught up in the (understandable) emotion and passion of the debate to really ask, ‘aren’t we doing this wrong?’.

  12. Louise

    But is offering an abortion to them the truly compassionate solution?

    Interesting too, how much money can be made by abortionists in exercising such “compassion”

  13. Louise

    … abortion rates in the US tend to rise under “pro-life” administrations and fall under pro-choice administrations …

    Is this because “pro-life administrations” are usually Republican and therefore perhaps not strong on that whole “common good” thing? I don’t know, I’m just asking.

    … It’s unfortunately not true that there is a simple correspondence between pro-life votes, or pro-life legislation, and a reduction in abortion

    Well, why would it necessarily? But while I do think practical and personal help in society and personal conversion to the pro-life position is what will lead ultimately to a lowering of the abortion rate, nevertheless I think also that a civilised nation ought to have legal protection for the child in the womb. Also, over the long term, having very liberalised abortion laws will further entrench abortion.

    Too much emotional, political or other energy put into political and legislative campaigns is at best a waste of resources, and in my view can easily be counterproductive, actually fuelling the pressures that lead women to chose abortions

    I could accept that focussing excessively on the political and legal aspects may be counterproductive because it perhaps takes the focus away from the practical help we could be giving women, but I’m not sure how fuels the pressures on women to choose abortion. Can anyone elaborate?

    Is there anyone in the pro-life movement who is not so caught up in the (understandable) emotion and passion of the debate to really ask, ‘aren’t we doing this wrong?’.

    I am woman. Hear me multi-task.

    I am at the moment, Tony, going through a re-awakening to the horror that is abortion, as someone who has always been opposed to abortion but who – due to great discouragement – has also been prepared to put it to the back of my mind.

    Hence, some of my recent comments. However, I can both feel the horror of abortion and appreciate the fact that the pro-life movement has been an abject failure.

    I have No Idea what the answer is, but I am sure of one thing and that is that I must do something and I will make (probably very many) mistakes.

    And therein lies the scariness of the undertaking – does anyone think I want to make things *worse* for children in the womb,

    Kyrie eleison.

    Anyone have any actual answers?

  14. Louise

    does anyone think I want to make things *worse* for children in the womb?