Abortion and the ACL

In Tasmania, there’s a bit of talk about abortion.  Something that should be well and truly settled in Australia.

Alas, the Australian Christian Lobby continues to push their very selective agenda on things that they see as sins.  Whether it’s raging against same-sex marriage or the rights of women, they continue to assert that their values are the right ones.

It’s time that organisations like the ACL are challenged more directly.  Their uninspired and broad sweeping generalisations don’t add to any debate.  The image they use in their tweet to link to the article shows a well and truly born baby.  This is an attempt to trick viewers into an emotional response, an effort to say, look, see what you’re aborting.  A happy smiling baby.  That is of course far from the truth.

The Tasmanian Director of the ACL, Mark Brown, wrote an article for the local newspaper, here it is taken apart sentence by sentence.

Here’s Mr. Browns article that you’ll find on their website:

An unexpected pregnancy for some will mean ecstatic joy; for others deep anxiety. My wife and I on a couple of occasions have experienced the latter emotion when a missed period signalled a potential unplanned arrival.

A setup to show just how understanding Mark is.  An attempt to make an emotional connection with you, however, it’s unlikely that abortion was ever a consideration for him.

I cannot imagine coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy alone or with an unsupportive partner and/or family.

I’m not sure whether this is a lack of empathy or an attempt at empathy.  Let’s face it, he’ll never have to have an unexpected pregnancy, so I’m not surprised he can’t imagine it.

The contentious issue of abortion has again raised its head with the closing of the last dedicated surgical abortion clinic in Tasmania. Most Tasmanian women are now opting for at-home medical abortions.

I don’t think abortion is contentious.  Safe abortions have been available in Australia for a few decades and apart from some squabbles from religious people, hardly raise an eyebrow.

Women’s advocacy groups are demanding surgical abortions be made routinely available in public hospitals just like any other operation. But is abortion really like any other operation?

Yeah, pretty much.  If you’re uncomfortable with operation would you go for a procedure?  After all, there are so many abortions around the globe it is rather routine.  We need to make sure that they are safe now.

During the abortion law debate in 2013 Cassy O’Connor accurately described abortion as an ‘agonising choice.’

I’m not sure how accurate that is.  However, I accept that for some women abortion could be an agonising choice, for others, just an operation, sorry, procedure.

Whatever one’s views I think everyone would agree on two basic non-negotiables:

  1. Pregnant women (and their partners) should be fully informed regarding all the options available and any potential consequences of choosing those options.

  2. There should be a total absence of coercion in the decision.

So, ok, let’s agree.  First, who says that they aren’t already informed of their options?  Second, of course, women should not be coerced, not into abortion and not into having the baby.  That’s why we consider it to be their choice.

These sound straightforward on paper but are they playing out in practice?

Look, without spending some time to ask that question, yeah.  I’d say pretty well that’s the practice.  There may be some examples of ill-informed women and sometimes they may be coerced.

The short answer I believe is ‘no’ due to the cultural narrative around abortion.

We’d expect you to believe that.  Although the only one making a fuss about it is you and your ilk.

Some of the generally accepted ideas in our current cultural narrative on abortion include:

  • An embryo/foetus is not a human.
  • Pregnancy termination is void of significant risk.
  • Challenging ‘reproductive rights’ is off-limits.
  • Abortion is the only real option for those with an unwanted pregnancy.

But are these true? Do they stand up to scientific rigour and are they consistently applied? If they don’t stack up, informed consent and non-coercion can never really be assured.

Let’s look at each separately:

I’m not convinced that these are generally accepted ideas surrounding abortion – but as you say, let’s look at them separately.

Expectant mothers have no problem referring to their growing embryo/foetus as their baby – no one questions that. Unwanted babies, however, are dehumanised as a ‘product of conception.’ The inconsistency is glaring. The stage of development should not matter given the trajectory. A Wedge-tailed eagle and her eggsare protected by law; why not developing humans?

I’m sure even those having abortions are aware of the fact that they are aborting a baby.  You use the word babies to engender an idea of a bouncing bubbling baby that might appear in a TV ad for toilet paper.  That isn’t the reality.  The aborted baby is quite often at an early stage and isn’t anywhere near the baby model you’re hoping to create in peoples minds.  Oh, and wedge tail eagles are a threatened species, people aren’t.

Abortion has been affirmed for years as a low-risk procedure. Yet there is a significant body of research disputing this.

I note that you referred to abortion as a procedure, not an operation. Earlier you’d suggested that it was a surgical abortion. You make it sound so mundane.  For such a significant body of research, I’m wondering where the links might be.  Examples?  Abortions, when conducted in a safe environment, are low risk.  We should ensure that all women have access to low-risk abortion if that’s what they desire.

When considering the psychological evidence alone (there is also considerable research on the physical toll of abortion) the work of those like Emeritus Professor David Fergusson (interestingly a supporter of abortion) cannot be ignored. His 35-year study of 1265 children born in the Christchurch region of New Zealand is dubbed by many as the most groundbreaking longitudinal study ever undertaken.

We’re talking about abortion, and your quoted study is about 1265 children born in Christchurch.  There’s a disconnect here.  And Fergusson is interestingly a supporter of abortion what next?  Ex-gays telling us how bad being gay is?

Professor Fergusson has published a number of papers on abortion and its links to mental health. His initial findings published in 2006 in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychologyshowed women who had abortions had about 1.5 times the rate of mental health problems than those who did not.

I gather your conclusion is that they shouldn’t have abortions then?  My conclusion would be that we need to ensure proper support is in place to provide assistance after the abortion.  It’s also worth noting that mental health issues can be caused by a number of things.  Abortion may or may not be one of the contributing factors.  It’s worth noting that the research also concludes “Substance abuse problems were most commonly associated with having undergone an abortion”.  Makes me think that it is probably more complex than your simplistic approach.

There was strong opposition to his conclusions yet he felt it”scientifically irresponsible” not to publish them simply because they were controversial (didn’t fit the cultural narrative).

Not sure that there was strong opposition, however, let’s take that at face value.  We’d need to understand the reason for the opposition, we’ve seen plenty of studies over the years that are not conducted correctly, and incorrect conclusions are drawn.  You only need to look at any of the studies around homosexuality conducted by churches to see how the scientific community will call bullshit when appropriate.

His subsequent research only reinforced these initial findings.

Sounds like scientific rigour, what’s missing, however, is a link to the research, you’ll find a brief one-pager here, and this observation:

Dr Fergusson says that in terms of overall population effects, the impact of abortion on mental health is small and their findings fall into a very much a middle-of-the-road position on abortion.

There’s a lot more to the research than just cherry-picking the bits that you like.  You’d need to balance your conclusions with your other research to arrive at a decent proposal.  It’s like this is your first university assignment and you’ve rushed it to get it in before the deadline.

Talk with any pregnancy/post-abortion support group and the truth of his research will be heartily attested to – including the ever-rising incidence of coercion.

Which ones did you speak with?  I can’t imagine they’d be too keen on having you show up to share the love.

The third pillar of the cultural narrative centres on the ‘unquestionable rights’ of women to abortion. Such rights can equally be used to oppose abortion:

We believe in a woman’s right to control her body, and she deserves this right no matter where she lives, even if she’s still living inside her mother’s womb (Feminists for Life).

Rights must be challengeable as they should always be considered in conjunction with others’ rights. Most Tasmanians believe the rights of an innocent child are paramount. The majority of those polled in 2013 did not support abortion where there was a healthy baby and mother which is the case in 95% of abortions.

Now we have to challenge rights?  Whatever happened to the inalienable rights of people?  That most Tasmanians believe the rights of an innocent child are paramount isn’t in question.  I’m sure we all agree with that statement.  However, a child is not a pre-born baby and if you rephrased your crude assertion you’d get a different answer.  Then you use a 2013 poll, no indication where the poll was conducted, was it on a News Limited website?  Perhaps the ACL website?  What was the question asked?  How many people participated?

Lastly, the notion that there is no legitimate alternative to terminating an unwanted pregnancy is firmly entrenched in our cultural psyche. Around 70% of women who have an abortion feel they have no alternative. In their journeys, I’m sure very few were encouraged to consider adoption as a realistic option.

Where does the 70% come from?  And even if this was right, maybe for those women there is no alternative, or they’re not interested in an alternative.  For you to suggest that the women don’t consider the various options when it comes to abortion is a big stretch.  It suggests that they miss their period and whip straight off for the abortion.  My bold assertion is that most women think carefully and weigh up their options, mostly with their loving partner, before making a decision.

Yet nearly two out of three Tasmanians polled in 2013 believed that more needed to be done to encourage parenting and adoption instead of abortion. Mothers who choose to adopt out rather than abort their babies need to be applauded. Around 20-30 Tasmanian couples are on adoption waiting lists at any one time.

Which poll?  Is this the same as the previous poll?  I’m pretty sure adopting out or aborting or keeping are all tough decisions for a woman to make.  Each decision should be equal in stature and relevant supports in place to make it as easy as possible.

Abortion is not a routine medical procedure. Mainstreaming abortions in public hospitals will do nothing to correct the current misguided and inconsistent cultural narrative – it will only reinforce it. The truth is abortion kills a baby (and adversely affects mothers); adoption saves a baby.

Abortion is a routine medical procedure.  I’m sure you’ll readily agree that thousands take place around the world every day.  Abortion is mainstream.  There is no misguided or inconsistent cultural narrative.  The truth is abortion kills a baby, a pre-born baby that isn’t a bouncing bundle of joy.  The abortion is conducted on something from a collection of cells to something resembling a human, we know this, nobody is in denial.  Your emotive language is unhelpful.  Adoption doesn’t save a baby.  There’s nothing to be saved from.  Adoption is putting the child with different adults.  That alone has it’s own issues if not done well.  For example, the mother might hate the idea that the baby is adopted by a fundamentalist christian who will hit the child.

Government funding should, therefore, be prioritised towards services that are prepared to support mums to continue their unexpected pregnancy, that offer adoption as a real alternative, ensure women (and their partners) are fully informed and are able to help those experiencing coercion.

Government funding should be geared towards supporting women to make the best decision for themselves, unhindered by religious organisations that are attempting to coerces them into an approach that they really don’t require.

An abridged edited version was published in the Mercury, May 15, 2018:

And somewhere I’m sure is a fully researched essay with links to all your claims that provides the scientific rigour required and doesn’t simply rely on lining it up with religious dogma dictated by the use of the antiquated bible.

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