It is really disturbing that once again abortion advocates dismiss the facts of abortion as misleading anti-abortion activity. The Queensland Perinatal and Mortality Report, 2015 clearly states that 27 babies were born alive following pregnancy terminations after 20 weeks. It also clearly states that 2 of these babies were the result of terminations for psychosocial indications, meaning the babies themselves were clearly healthy.
That makes this statement (in the Guardian article) attributed to Carol Portmann, a maternal foetal medicine specialist, not just misleading, but completely false:
In all known circumstances, these abortions were carried out as a result of “significant physical or genetic fetal abnormalities or significant medical problems that constitute reasonable risk to the mother’s medical or psychological wellbeing”, she said.
Where the information about these babies has been picked up by the media, commenters on social media have been alternately horrified, or in disbelief, with some stating emphatically this the whole thing is made up and never happens. It is the kind of reporting in the Guardian article that seeks to perpetuate the misinformation the general public are exposed to, thereby making any attempts at assessing community attitudes about abortion completely invalid. If the facts about termination are withheld from the public, or worse still, the facts that are presented are simply not true, the community isn’t able to make an informed decision about what they think.
What I have seen over the past week as I watch social media is that those who are accepting the truth of this report, are in disbelief that such barbarism is allowed to occur in Australia. When they see reports from other states such as Victoria where many more babies are born alive and left to die after termination, they are more horrified.
It is easy to see why the public would be swayed by the way in which this article seeks to dismiss the facts and concerns of people. It is easier to believe that those trying to make this information public are fanatics than it is to believe that as human beings we allow this horrific practise to take place.
It is easier to continue to believe that all women are empowered and autonomous decision makers than to recognise how terribly we fail them at times of great need by offering them the death of their unborn children instead of the opportunity to birth them, love them, and grieve them fully if they are truly to die, or arguably worse still, the death of their healthy child to address their social circumstances.
If the expression of horror or grief, or disbelief at the extent to which these things occur is a measure of public opinion on abortion, then rather than removing all protections from women by making abortion even more widely available, we should be working to understand how we can better support them.
This morning I watched the 7am National news reporting on a beached Humpback whale on the Gold Coast. The news piece lasted just short of 10 minutes. As the waves rolled in, the whale looked like it might swim back out to sea; people cheered and then groaned while one of the hosts kept asking ‘does it hurt the whale?’ The whale had been beached for 37 hours and there were dozens of people on the ground working to ensure its survival.
I don’t know a lot about whales, so these efforts somewhat bewilder me, however before I’m drawn and quartered for not liking animals, I own 2 dogs, I have a mainly native garden which is a haven for hundreds of native birds, I don’t own a cat for that reason, and I recycle. I like animals. I do my bit to care for the environment.
The bewildering aspect of it to me is that a single whale takes up 10 minutes of my news watching time yet when figures about late term abortions of viable healthy babies are released, nobody wants to talk about it.
Earlier in the week I wrote this piece following the long awaited release of Victoria’s Maternal, Perinatal, Child and Adolescent Mortality report. This report details the deaths of any child during pregnancy from 20 weeks gestation and after birth, up to the age of 18, including those deaths from pregnancy termination. In this report we learned that for another two years in a row, late term abortions for psychosocial reasons have outstripped those for congenital abnormality.
In 2010, 191 physically healthy mothers were provided with a surgical solution to their social, economic, relational or psychological problems with the death of their healthy unborn child, only weeks from birth, or in the case of many, at a time when they could be delivered alive and viable. In 2011 the same solution was provided to 183 women, with one of these women being over 37 weeks gestation. Yes, that is 37 weeks; a gestation which is considered practically full term with full term pregnancy defined as anything from 38 weeks. A further 10 women were given terminations at between 28 and 31 weeks in 2011.
In 2000, the public were outraged following the termination of a 32 week old unborn child at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. The woman apparently presented as suicidal demanding the termination of her unborn child suspected of having a form of dwarfism. The fact is that there is zero evidence of a mental health benefit stemming from termination, and in any other setting where a person presents as suicidal demanding the removal of their own body part (not the body of their child), they would be medicated and counselled through the psychiatric crisis, not rushed to surgery.
Similar outrage and horror was felt at the tragic death of a healthy baby boy who was accidentally terminated instead of his less healthy twin brother (who was subsequently terminated in a further procedure) in 2011 at the same hospital. At the time I questioned why it was that this was even making the news when healthy babies were aborted by the dozens every year in Victoria. Assuming the twin baby boys whose lives were lost and reported on are included in the 2011 figures, we can now see that in the same year the deaths of a further 9 unborn babies past viability, at least one close to term passed by us unannounced.
What of their mothers? What circumstances drive a woman to feel that her only option is termination as opposed to delivering her child and making a choice at that time to either parent or not? What drives the medical profession and radical women’s groups to believe that offering a woman the death of her unborn child is an adequate solution to her circumstances, especially in the face of the evidence of risk to the woman’s physical and emotional health following a late term abortion? In fact the evidence demonstrates that a history of mental health problems is considered a risk factor for future mental health problems if a termination is undertaken.
The majority of the general public do not support abortions at this late stage of pregnancy, and in fact many do not support abortions at even earlier gestations for many psychosocial reasons. It is possible to end a pregnancy without ending the life of a woman’s child.
My response to this call for free abortion was labelled by some as both radical and anti-woman because I suggested that we should do more to address women’s real issues, such as drug addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, economic issues and lack of parenting support and education.
If asking questions about why we are not addressing the real inequalities women experience when faced with adverse circumstances during pregnancy is considered radical it is no wonder that women continue to feel such pressure toward abortion.
When the media is more interested in a single beached whale when the lives of women and their children are being torn apart, in some cases for the children this being literal, there is something very wrong with our world.