Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A letter to parliamentarians on abortion

To: Mrs Helen Shardey
Mrs Andrea Coote
Mr David Davis
Mr John Lenders
Ms Susan Pennicuik
Mr Evan Thornley


Dear Mrs Shardey and Members for Southern Metropolitan Region,

As a resident of Caulfield and pastor of a local church, I am writing to express my great concern over the proposed changes to the way abortions will be conducted in Victoria.

Abortion is not simply a medical procedure like any other procedure: it is a life and death decision after conception has already taken place. Consequently, abortion can be one of the more distressing experiences which women can experience. It can be an extremely painful decision to terminate the life of one's own child, and in my years of pastoral experience, including a period working as a pastoral carer in a maternity hospital, I have observed that the emotional pain of abortions are deep and can endure for many years.

Many thousands of abortions are performed in Victoria each year, and only a tiny proportion of these are due to rape, incest or risk to the life of the mother. I believe just about everyone in the community - except the commercial abortion providers - would agree that the number of abortions is too high.

It is deeply distressing that the proposed changes to abortion laws in Victoria will make it easier for medical practitioners to sign off on abortions, without ensuring that the woman receives adequate support, such as counseling or provision of information to ensure 'informed consent' and that she understands the options available to her.

When abortion rates go up after these laws are brought in, the community will not consider that the Government has acted honestly in assuring the electorate that their intention was not to increase the abortion rate.

I am particularly concerned that abortion clinics - which exist solely to perform abortions, for profit - will only give token attention to counselling and equipping women to give their informed consent. The new laws will make this situation worse, by lowering the bar of consent for abortions (to varying degrees in the three options). The financial interest of such clinics in the termination of the unborn makes them the least suitable group to take responsibility for signing off on the procedure, especially in the case of late-term abortions.

I strongly believe that it is necessary to retain the concept of risk of harm to the mother, and if this is removed in some cases (such as in the first two trimesters) then it would be disastrous to remove this principle up to full gestation.

In the case of late-term abortions, I am particularly concerned for health professionals, who spend great efforts in some cases to save the lives of the unborn, and to nurse premature babies to life and health, and at the same time are asked to terminate the lives of other unborn children who are equally viable as living human beings. At 9am they may be operating in utero to save one life, and at 10am terminating another life by dismembering or 'euthanasing' a late-term, viable foetus, also in utero. It is, I believe, cruel and inhuman to encourage a system where medical professionals are both killers and saviours of the lives of the unborn, especially if we remove existing ethical protections for them in this work - such as ethics panels to assist in making these onerous decisions.

I believe that many people in the community consider that once a foetus reaches the later stages of development, they are no longer simply a part of the body of the woman, but are regarded as a living human being and a future child with individual characteristics - albeit legally not a person and still dependent upon their mother whilst in the womb. The practices, widely encouraged by hospitals, that mothers of still-born infants would name their child, hold a funeral service for him or her, retain images or impressions of the footprints or hand prints of their deceased, and cuddle the baby's body - all to assist with their grieving - are clear evidence of this perception. These practices have been introduced based on long experience with caring for the trauma of parental grief. If anything this grief can be more conflicted and complicated when it is the woman who has made a choice for termination.

In the light of such community understandings and practices surrounding the death of the unborn - which the Law Reform Commission's report took no account of - I am deeply concerned about the idea that late-term abortions might be solely at the discretion of pregnant woman, even if assisted in this decision by one or two doctors. Women need more support that this, and there is more at stake than the woman's right to choose about what happens to their bodies.

I remain deeply sceptical and concerned about the proposed changes, and ask the government not to accept changes which reduce abortion to simply a woman's choice, without regard for the rights and dignity of the unborn, or for the deeply troubling ethical issues associated with the practice of aborting late-term foetuses. I also reject the idea that we as a community should be taking steps which will make abortions more frequent, and grant less respect and dignity to life of the unborn.


Mark Durie
Vicar, St Mary's Caulfield

1 comment:

  1. And the pain and suffering and violation of the father?


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