Tag Archives: Abortion

How The Conclave of Creepy Old Men could erode women’s reproductive rights

1 Mar

Just when you thought Opposition Leader Tony Abbott might have pulled his dessicated head in on the topic of abortion in Australia, up pops DLP Senator John Madigan to take over the megaphone.

Madigan declares himself to be “unashamedly pro-life.” Guess what, so am I except when I’m unashamedly pro euthanasia, but that’s another story. Personally, I’m not acquainted with anyone who is avowedly anti life, probably because they’d have to take their own if they were to stand by their principles.

The good Senator for Victoria also counts rabidly anti choice and former Independent Senator for Tasmania Brian Harradine, as his personal hero.

Harradine, as readers of this blog will remember, employed as his ethics advisor anti-abortion campaigner, all-round morals defender & “don’t call me a Baptist or I’ll sue you” celebrity Melinda Tankard Reist, during the period when he managed to deny women at home and abroad access to reproductive information, and the drug RU486. You can refresh your memory if you’d like to at my post, “Who would Jesus Sue?”

There is a possibility that after the next election Madigan may find himself in a situation similar to that enjoyed by Harradine – holding the balance of power in the Senate. It was this privilege that allowed the former Senator for Tasmania to impose his anti choice vision not only on Australian women, but on women in developing countries as well, in exchange for telephones for Tasmania.

Madigan’s argument, if such offensive twaddle can be dignified with the name, is that Australian women in great numbers are availing ourselves of abortions when we are unhappy with the sex of the foetus we are carrying. It happens overseas, he claims, therefore women in this country must be doing it to such a degree he has to introduce legislation to stop us.

Madigan makes these claims based on no evidence at all, but what the hell, who needs evidence, everybody knows women are lying, scheming, unhinged humans, who will do anything we like to a foetus unless a man stops us. Oh bugger, I didn’t want a boy/girl, we say, and stop off at the abortion clinic on a Friday afternoon before we go to the pub.

What women need is for our politicians to call a halt to this stupidity. I am going to make a generalisation here and say women do not, usually, take abortion lightly. It’s time creepy male politicians stopped acting as if we do. In my life I have met only one woman who regarded abortion as a form of contraception, and I didn’t find her tough radical stance convincing.

Apart from anything else, unless you’re somehow involved with the foetus a woman is carrying, what she decides to do about her pregnancy is nobody’s business but hers. There is something hideously creepy about ageing white men like Abbott, Harradine and Madigan spending so much of their time focussed on what women do with our bodies. The image of them indulging their nasty pre-occupations makes my skin crawl.

The only reason to take notice of Madigan’s “let’s have a Tea Party” anti choice views, is the concern that he might chuck a Harradine. With the anti choice Abbott in the running for PM, and the quaintly named “Pro Life Labor” conclave as well, we might find ourselves yet again fighting for our fundamental reproductive rights.

Gentlemen, there is much for you to occupy yourselves with as you progress through your political lives. Please be assured that women are very capable of making considered decisions about our reproductive health, and that we do know where to go for advice when we need it. Your obsession with our reproductive practices is impertinent, and most unhealthy.

Your obsession also insulting, however, as the man who was kicked by a donkey observed, we will, this once ,overlook the insult, upon considering its source:

Braying White Donkey

Braying Ageing White Donkey

Credlin’s IVF: it’s all about Tony

9 Jan

abbott credlinDuring the last couple of days I’ve heard a few women praising Peta Credlin’s bravery in coming out about her IVF treatments. Her unflinching account of how her boss, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, allowed her to store her fertility drugs in his fridge and not only that, sacrificed his private bathroom in support of her pursuit of motherhood will, these commentators claim, inspire so many women who are enduring the same arduous and testing journey towards reproduction.

Then, as The Australian columnist Cassandra Wilkinson explained on The Drum last evening, Credlin has courageously shown us that even powerful women with successful careers have their troubles, just in case we nastily thought their lives were perfect.

I would be more inclined to feel compassion for Credlin’s circumstances were I not so mightily offended by the manner in which she has chosen to reveal them. Usually when I read stories about the IVF process in which a partner is involved, there is somewhere in the account a mention or more of the person who is sharing the journey. Quite frequently there are photos of both parties, and the supporting partner usually has something to say.

In Credlin’s coming out, as reported in the mainstream media, the photos are of her and Tony Abbott. She makes no reference to her husband, Brian Loughnane, Federal Director of the Australian Liberal Party, but speaks glowingly of Abbott’s compassionate and patient understanding of what she is going through.

Of course, Mr Loughnane may not have wanted to participate in his wife’s gut spilling. After all, a husband in the story would detract from Tony Abbott’s role and on the face of it, Tony’s role in the couple’s pursuit of parenthood appears to have precedence over their own.  Tony Abbott has the starring role in Loughnane and Credlin IVF story. In the mainstream media Loughnane, husband and hopefully father to be, doesn’t get a mention.

I find this disturbingly dysfunctional. Isn’t there something just too weird about a husband being usurped by a boss in a woman’s IVF story?

Then, in case you find me cynical, Abbott next takes the golden opportunity created for him by Peta to beg understanding from the general public. People who know him understand his views on IVF, abortion and contraception, we’re told by both him and Credlin, but the punters haven’t got a clue. Well, whose fault is that?

It’s important, Tony continues, for people who know his real views to speak out about them. Why? Why doesn’t he speak out about them himself? Why hasn’t he been speaking out on abortion, for example, given that women find him ill-informed and offensive on matters that relate to our health and well-being. If he wants to change our perceptions, why doesn’t he just come right out and tell us his views instead of asking other women who are related to him or work for him to do it on his behalf? That tactic is certainly not going to endear him to us any time soon.

This piece on his website from 2005, for example. Titled “Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings” it is all we have to go on, and what a vile piece of woman-hating propaganda-disguised-as-concern it is. Abbott may well have made statements about his views on abortion since that time, but they are not written down, and as he himself famously stated, we can believe nothing he says unless he writes it down.

It is really quite baffling, that a man who claims his views have so radically changed does absolutely nothing to address that change on his website.

Then up pops Christopher Pyne, falling over himself in his slavering anxiety to tell us how Tony supported him and his wife through their “IVF trauma.” By god, Tony even went against the Catholic church’s teachings in order to do this!

So what next? Can we expect a woman who has been supported by Tony Abbott as she went through the process of pregnancy termination to come forward and tell us how he held her hand?  Has Tony Abbott ever spoken to women about their abortion experiences, I wonder?

IVF is no joke, I’m sure. A woman needs all the help she can get to go through it, I’m sure. I don’t think Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott have done anything much to encourage and support women and their partners who are on this journey. Indeed, I think they have, by using this story for political gain, shown once again that nowhere in a personal life is there an exploitation-free zone, whether they choose that exposure for themselves, or inflict it on others.

Brian Louhgnane

Brian Louhgnane

Flexing my mussel

15 Oct

WARNING: this post contains images of shellfish and flowers that some readers may find confronting

I’m not at all disturbed by the disgraced Peter Slipper likening my lady bits to a shellfish, in one of many private text messages sent to his then new friend James Ashby.

For a start, as I have often said, one overlooks the insult (if indeed we confer on this text message the status of insult) on considering the source, and chooses not to waste one’s time and energy getting exercised about it.

Secondly, the comment is hardly original. Women’s genitals have been likened to fish of one kind or another many times before. Does anyone recall that scene in Bliss, the Peter Carey novel turned film, in which sardines cascade from Bettina Joy’s vagina? Yes. Well. Is it a boy thing?

For myself, I’m more inclined towards the Georgia O’Keeffe visual analogies such as this one:

But hey, whatever floats your fishing boat.

On the other hand, I find Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s comments on women profoundly disturbing. For example:

It would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons. 

Or:

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience… Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year… When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boat people, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.

Why anyone would spend five minutes of their time worrying about how immature men describe female genitalia when we have an aspiring Prime Minister who thinks like this about women, is a mystery to me.

Then there is the semantic quarrel about the difference between sexism and misogyny. You don’t have to hate women to be sexist, apparently, but you do have to hate us to be a misogynist. Why do I not feel consoled by this distinction?

And let’s not forget hatred can take many forms. It does not have to be overt. It adapts itself readily to many guises. If I am treated as inferior because of my sex, as Mr Abbott suggests, am I to feel better about this if it is described to me as sexism rather than misogyny? Surely sexism is an expression of misogyny?

Tony Abbott has three daughters. He feels their virginity is their most  precious gift. He reduces his daughters to a hymen, a reduction I would argue denies them their full  humanity, as so many of Abbott’s statements about women deny us our full humanity.

What we need to ask is do we want a Prime Minister whose default position is to deny women our full humanity?

And why would he want to do this if he doesn’t hate us, however well that hatred may be disguised?

In one sentence Abbott reveals what he thinks of women

8 Aug

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience. Tony Abbott. 

Reduced by whom? Who has reduced abortion to a question of the mother’s convenience? Well, according to Tony Abbott it must be women who have reduced abortion to a question of the mother’s convenience, presumably because:

  • Abortion is a “grave” matter and women are incapable of perceiving it as such because they are women, stupid.
  • Women are dumb, or at least a whole lot dumber than Tony Abbott.
  • Women need men like Tony Abbott to guide them on the matter of abortion because they are too wilfully unintelligent to grasp its complexities all by themselves.
  • Women will, willy nilly if you let them, rid themselves of unwanted foetuses because they don’t know any better and what’s more, they don’t feckin care, do they?
  • Women actually have no moral compass.
  • Women are innately frivolous and untrustworthy.
  • Women don’t know half as much about abortion as do men like Tony Abbott.
  • Women must be made to understand how serious it is to abort a foetus because they clearly just don’t.
  • Women are twats.
  • Women will murder their children unless men like Tony Abbott stop them
  • Men like Tony Abbott have a moral obligation to protect women from themselves.
  • Men like Tony Abbott have a moral obligation to protect a foetus from its mother who will kill it, just because she thinks it will inconvenience her.
  • Women are pathologically selfish when it comes to a foetus.
  • Women have no grasp of the awesomeness of life.
  • Women are not men.
  • Women are not Tony Abbott

 

Abortion? Only if you’ve got the money and Abbott’s not PM

7 Aug

 

Abortion is becoming increasingly difficult to access for women without money. As Adele Horin explains here women on benefits, many of whom are escaping domestic violence, some of whom are homeless, and some of whom already have more children than they can financially support, are finding it harder to access abortion because of costs that are exorbitant if you are dependent on welfare payments.

If, for example, you are a single mother who’s youngest child is about to turn eight, you are facing a reduction in your weekly payments of up to $60 as the Gillard government moves you from parenting benefits to the Newstart allowance in order to save itself some $700 million. If you find yourself on Newstart and pregnant, you’ll be faced with the choice of  bringing another child into the world (which will allow you to go back on parenting benefits for another eight years) finding the money for an abortion from somewhere, or, if you are desperate enough, finding someone who will perform an abortion at a price you can afford. All this because you don’t, for whatever reason, have money.

An alternative to expensive surgical abortion is the drug Mifepristone, also known as RU 486, that can be taken in the early weeks to terminate a pregnancy. While available in countries such as Great Britain, Sweden, France and the US, under the Howard government Australian women were denied access through the so-called “Harradine Amendments,” a situation that is explained by ethicist Dr Leslie Cannold as follows:

To understand why, a short history of the offending [Harradine]amendments is necessary. Passed in 1996 with the agreement of both major parties, the amendments were designed by their author – anti-choice Senator Harradine – to forever deny Australian women access to RU 486 and any other pharmaceutical capable of inducing a non-surgical abortion. Having made the specious claim that the rigorous quality, safety and efficacy analysis the TGA does for all pharmaceuticals entering Australia was inadequate for these drugs – and these drugs alone – the Harradine amendments require the Health Minister to approve in writing the importation, trial, registration or listing of such drugs, and to table that approval in parliament. In exchange for this warped dream-come-true, Senator Harradine horse-traded his vote to privatise Telstra.

In this extraordinary deal for control of women’s bodies in exchange for telephones, veto over the importation and use of RU 486 became the responsibility of the Health Minister, rather than, as for all other drugs, the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

As Health Minister it was Tony Abbott’s intention to continue to exercise his right of veto over the drug, and over Australian women’s right to access medical abortion. However, a timely confluence of political women in 2006 (explained in interesting detail here) succeeded in wresting this control from Abbott, and transferring it to the TGA.

Unfortunately, RU 486 is still difficult to obtain. Not marketed by any drug company in this country, only about 100 doctors across Australia are authorised by the TGA to import and supply the drug, in one-off importation agreements. The cost of an individual license to prescribe is upwards of $150,000. To circumvent this cost, practitioners can apply for Authorised Prescriber Status in specific circumstances, the details of which must be reported with every use of the drug.

The cost of using RU 486 compared to surgical abortion is considerably less, making it a reasonable alternative for low-income women, as well as women in rural areas whose access to abortion clinics is restricted and expensive.

RU 486 is regarded by the World Health Organisation as one of the safest and cheapest forms of termination, and one that should be available to all women.

The best outcome for Australian women is for the drug to be available nationally, and marketed by a drug company with TGA approval.

Given the acknowledged safety, economy, and efficiency of Mifepristone, there can be no legitimate reason for denying all Australian women who want it access to this form of medical termination. I can only conclude that the ongoing refusal to treat this drug as all other drugs are treated in this country is entirely to do with moral issues surrounding abortion, and the perceived unworthiness of poor women to have the same safe access to pregnancy termination as is available to their wealthier sisters.

While there are rumours of drug company interest in marketing RU 486 here, a perceived lack of political will and government reluctance to adequately deal with the issue of abortion may be seen as a deterrent to marketing.

These marketing apprehensions are only likely to increase ten-fold if we are faced with an Abbott-led Coalition government. In his article titled  “Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings,”  Abbott reveals his understanding of the complexity of abortion thus:  “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.”

If you are a woman, Tony Abbott is not your friend. If you are a woman seeking an abortion, Tony Abbott is your enemy.

 

 

Written on our bodies: God’s Own Party goes to war on women

18 Mar

When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fought it out to win the Democrats’ nomination for Presidential Candidate in 2008, the claim that “Americans are more misogynist than racist” was used as a street-level indicator of who would triumph. As we know Obama won, though whether or not this proves the observation is impossible to determine.

In the 2012 Republican battle for nomination, religion plays a central role, to the extent that the party is referred to by some US media as God’s Own Party, or, the American Faith Party. Professing your faith, once a no-no in US politics, is now de rigueur for Republican candidates who represent a party comprised in large part of Catholic traditionalists, evangelicals, fundamentalists, and charismatic protestants; some strands of Judaism, and Mormons. What these disparate religious groups share is faith in the power of religious values to create a better country, and in some instances, a belief that God’s law should govern society.  The belief in a shared ultimate vision for the ordering of human existence, and the subordination of human experience to dogma and doctrinal claims are hallmarks of right-wing religious beliefs. Now for the first time in US history the core identity of a political party is “the profession of a religious faith in politics.” In other words, God’s Own Party is dedicated to a mystical imperative that supersedes all other concerns: faith.

Abortion and gay marriage are two of the fundamental issues that provoke anxiety and uncertainty in supporters of the AFP.  Some commentators see the origins of the new party back in Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when he made efforts to appeal to the Bible belt following the Roe v Wade decision on abortion. Since that decision, religious groups have felt themselves particularly alienated from politics, and disgruntled that religion apparently had no role in determining an aspect of public policy about which they held zealous views.

Hillary Clinton, now US Secretary of State, recently made the following comments:

Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress. They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world.

Given current conditions, the US is far from setting an example to the entire world in the matter of women’s reproductive rights.

Clinton is required to refrain from commentary on domestic politics in her role as Secretary of State, however it’s clear that’s she’s referring to what New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd describes as an “insane bout of mass misogyny” perpetrated by G.O.P. leaders in their efforts to outdo one another in selling their religious conservative credentials to voters.

The personal consequences of this insanity for one woman are detailed in this devastating account of her experiences in Texas, after new laws were introduced requiring certain procedures before a woman may undergo a termination. Women are compelled to have an ultrasound, during which they are legally required to listen while a doctor is legally required to describe the foetus they are carrying. They must then wait 24 hours before termination, presumably to give them time to change their minds after hearing this description, and in some states, the foetal heartbeat.  In the case of Carolyn Jones described in the link, a nurse turned up the volume of a radio in an attempt to drown out the doctor’s words and spare Ms Jones some anguish. One can only imagine the toll these laws take on the staff of women’s health clinics, as well as the patients.

Doctors are then legally required (under threat of losing their license) to read out a list of the dangers of abortion, including the discredited claim also made by religious groups in Australia, most recently on ABC’s The Drum, that there is an increased chance of breast cancer after a termination.

Seven US states require that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound on each woman seeking an abortion, and then require the provider to offer the woman the opportunity to view the image. In most states she is permitted to “turn her eyes away.” This legislation is based on the paternalistic notion that women might not know what pregnancy means, and having the foetus described, hearing its heartbeat and viewing an ultrasound will educate them. The desired outcome is that after this compulsory education, a woman will change her mind, refuse to terminate the pregnancy, and carry the foetus to term.

Some of these requirements have been in place in some states since the mid 1990’s. There hasn’t been any noticeable decline in the numbers of women seeking abortions, indeed some figures indicate an increase, especially the figures used by the anti-choice campaigners, who often claim an “epidemic” is underway. It’s generally agreed by abortion providers that women have made up their minds about termination before arriving at their clinics, and no matter how they are tortured, are disinclined to change their minds.

Many women seeking abortions have already given birth, and are well aware of what they are doing. Apparently, according to anti-choice activists, even when a woman has carried a child to term she still can’t be trusted to know what she is planning to do. Most insidious is the Orwellian co-option of language to justify these last-minute efforts at re-education under the guise of “informed consent.”  The “Women’s Right to Know Act” is the title of the legislation, a title that implies a woman hasn’t got a clue in the first place, and that information is being deliberately withheld from her by abortion providers.

And then there is the “post abortion grief” argument so beloved by some activists in Australia:

Abortion foes have long focused on what they allege are its negative mental health consequences. For decades, they have charged that having an abortion causes mental instability and even may lead to suicide, and despite consistent repudiations from the major professional mental health associations, they remain undeterred.

Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognizes so-called post-abortion traumatic stress syndrome as grounded in clinical evidence. As these bodies apparently are willing to recognize just about anything as a syndrome, the fact that they refuse to grant credence to this particular “syndrome” is significant.

As I wrote here, there is a continuum of reactions to the experience of abortion, and none of them should be extrapolated to prove one thing or another, and certainly not to claim that “post abortion syndrome” is an argument for outlawing abortion.

An attitude typical of Republicans who support the AFP is encapsulated in this comment on abortion: “We can’t ever think that a fetus is somehow undesirable or even disposable,” said Justine Schmiesing, a mother of seven who noted that she does not “contracept.” “We don’t want government to act in ways that ignore life, and that is why we are speaking up.”

The Republican party’s focus on women’s reproductive rights (contraception is also under fire, but that’s another whole article) as a political battleground does not augur well for US women, especially in the southern states, as the fallout from new laws causes a cut in federal funding that affects all health services for low-income women:

After Texas blocked abortion providers’ participation in its Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the White House officially notified the state Thursday afternoon that it will pull all funds from the program, which totalled about $39 million last year.

The Medicaid program offered a wide range of health services to women who otherwise would be unable to afford them. Texas refused to allow any abortion provider to participate in this program, despite the fact that clinics providing abortion such as Planned Parenthood, also offer a multitude of other services. As federal law already forbids the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, this action is purely political. As I wrote here in April 2011:

The call for de-funding was justified by Republicans and prominent Tea Party supporters such as Sarah Palin as necessary to prevent taxpayers’ money being used to provide abortions. Palin tweeted that “the country’s going broke, we can’t AFFORD cowboy poetry and subsidised abortion.”
 In fact, some 3 per cent of Planned Parenthood’s total services deal with abortion, and that 3 per cent is restricted to terminating pregnancies that are a consequence of rape, incest, and those that are a threat to the mother’s life. The use of federal funds for any other type of abortion is already illegal.
Republican anti-abortion spin reframes Planned Parenthood as a major provider of subsidised abortion, and so determined are conservatives forces to ban the procedure they were prepared to not only close down the government’s ability to financially function, but to deny all other health services provided for poor and low-income women by the PP health centres.

Not only is this a war on women, it’s also a class war.

The Republican party is today dominated by presidential candidates fuelled by a sense of higher purpose, who market themselves as agents of God, chosen to guide America back to the path of righteousness from which it has apparently so grievously strayed. Society must be re-shaped to fit their doctrinal mold, because to them, doctrine is more valid than human experience. The differences between the religious faiths represented in GOP are temporarily suspended in the interests of attaining the greater good.

What is alarming is that gaining control over women’s bodies has once again come to represent attaining the greater good. That women will suffer in the political/religious struggle for the imagined ideal is irrelevant, as it is women who allegedly most grievously transgress this ideal. It is women, specifically women’s sexuality, that obstructs those who seek a god-fearing society.

After all, central to the US pledge of allegiance, piped by every school child in America every morning, is the phrase “ one country under God.”  God’s Own Party is determined to make America one country under God, and if you’re a woman, and even more if you’re a poor woman, you will be crushed in the righteous pursuit of the imposition of God’s will.

As Wendy Kaminer puts it in the Atlantic:

Would we tolerate a religious right to refuse treatment or accommodation on the basis of race as readily as we tolerate a religious right to refuse reproductive health care? Of course not. Your right to act on your religious beliefs is not absolute; it’s weighed against the rights that your actions would deny to others. Today, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, claims of religious freedom tend to outweigh claims of reproductive freedom. But that is a consequence of history, politics, and culture and is subject to change. The balance of power is not divinely ordained.

The religious right in US politics doesn’t attempt to conceal its agendas. One doesn’t have to ask where they’re coming from, they’re only too happy to tell you. If ever there was an argument for being informed of the religious beliefs of politicians and public figures who seek to influence policy, the US situation is it. Even the US Constitution, so clear on the separation of church and state, has become irrelevant in the face of renewed religious determination to control women’s reproductive health. In the southern states, it looks as if they’re succeeding.

Abbott’s ascendency puts women’s choice at risk

27 Oct

Is this the face of the next Prime Minister?

This article was first published in On Line Opinion

US Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann started her campaign as the Tea Party Queen, promising fiscal conservatism and an end to “Obamacare,” otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that in 2010 extended health care insurance to some 30 million Americans, arousing the fury of many who feared it was an indicator of what they allege is President Obama’s destructive inclination towards socialism.

Bachmann describes herself as a social conservative who believes that wives must be submissive to their husbands. She is the mother of five children, and appears to be of the opinion that it is virtuous to produce large families. She is a graduate of the Oral Roberts University, a Christian college where she studied tax law at the insistence of her husband, and where she learned that Christian morality is the basis of US law.

The term “social conservative” is considered by some in the US blogosphere to be code for evangelical Christian or Christian conservatism. Bachmann believes that what the US needs now is a marriage between fiscal and social conservatism, a marriage that she is attempting to contrive as the Tea Party’s apparent willingness to risk national default in the pursuit of their political goals saw some of their supporters take a set against them, and against Bachmann herself. Bachmann’s fortunes also took a turn for the worse when Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the Presidential race. In an effort to regain ground, Bachmann is now appealing directly to evangelical Christians, and focusing her efforts on gaining the support of conservative Christian voters.

 The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act

To this end, Congresswoman Bachmann has proposed a bill in the US House of Representatives known as the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. This is federal legislation that would require pregnant women to have ultrasounds, and be shown pictures of the foetus they are carrying before an abortion could be performed.

The Act also requires that doctors be required by federal law to capture the sound of the feotal heartbeat and play it to the pregnant woman, before an abortion can legally be performed.

Penalties for abortions carried out without observance of these proposed laws are fines of $100,000 for the first offence, and $250,000 for repeat offences.

The premise on which the proposed bill is based is that a woman is far less likely to go through with an abortion if she sees the foetus, and hears the heartbeat. To this end, the proposed legislation requires that ultrasound pictures “accurately portray the presence of external members and internal organs, if present.”

Right-to-lifers have apparently given up attempting outright to have all abortion criminalized. Instead they are adopting a back door approach that seeks to move the permissible time frame to when the foetal heartbeat can be detected, thus legally redefining “life.” The heartbeat can be heard as early as eighteen days, and in Ohio, for example, the state version of the “Heartbeat Bill” proposes that all abortion is outlawed after a heartbeat is detected.

There is little likelihood of Bachmann’s federal bill getting past the Senate, and President Obama has let it be known that in the event that it does, he will veto it. However, a very similar piece of legislation known as the Informed Consent Bill is now being advocated in every US state, by anti abortion groups who are aware that Bachmann’s bill won’t be legislated at the federal level. At the state level this bill is backed by major conservative groups such as National Right to Life, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Susan B Anthony’s List, and Family Research Council Action. In some states the bill stands a good chance of becoming law. In Rick Perry’s Texas for example, the bill has passed through two readings and requires only one more.

The Protect Life Act

This Act recently passed the House of Representatives with every Republican voting in favour, along with eleven Democrats who crossed the aisle to join them.

The Protect Life Act prohibits women from buying health insurance plans that cover abortion under the Affordable Care Act, and makes it legal for hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women with life-threatening conditions. Its purpose is ostensibly to ensure that no taxpayer dollars flow to health care plans that cover abortion. In fact it is already against the law in the US to use taxpayer funds for abortion procedures, a fact right-to-lifers consistently ignore or misrepresent. Abortions are covered only by private insurance payments. However, this Bill would prevent women from buying an insurance plan that includes abortion through a state health care exchange, even though most private plans currently cover abortion.

The Protect Life Act also allows hospitals morally opposed to abortion, such as Catholic institutions, to do nothing for a woman who needs an emergency abortion to save her life. Hospitals in the US currently have an obligation to provide care in a medical emergency, however under the new Act that obligation would legally come second to the institutions’ moral objections to providing abortions.

This bill is also likely to be defeated in the Senate, and again President Obama has signaled his intention to veto the bill should it land on his desk.

However, it’s worth remembering that every Republican voted for it, as well as eleven Democrats.

In some quarters the bill has become known as the “Let Women Die Bill.”

Vow to withdraw federal funding for contraception.

Another Republican Presidential hopeful, Catholic father of seven Rick Santorum, has vowed to repeal all federal funding for contraception should he be elected President, on the grounds that contraception “is a license to do things in the sexual realm.” Santorum also holds the view that “ sex is supposed to be within marriage,” and he talks at length about “the dangers of contraception.” Santorum, like Bachmann, is a social and fiscal conservative.

Mitt the Mormon Bishop.

Mormon feminist academic Professor Judith Dushku developed a life-threatening blood clot when she was pregnant with her sixth child. Arrangements were made to abort the foetus and thus save her life. When Dushku arrived at the hospital for the procedure she was met by her then Mormon bishop and father of five, Mitt Romney. The following exchange allegedly took place between Dushku and Romney:

He said – What do you think you’re doing?

She said – Well, we have to abort the baby because I have these blood clots.

And he said something to the effect of – Well, why do you get off easy when other women have their babies?

And she said – What are you talking about? This is a life-threatening situation.

And he said – Well what about the life of the baby?

And she said – I have four other children and I think it would be really irresponsible to continue the pregnancy.

Dushku proceeded with the termination, and lived to bring up her four children. Though previously friends Romney and Dushku no longer speak, at his insistence.

In 2005 as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney revealed a change of principles on abortion, moving from the “unequivocal” pro-choice position he adopted throughout his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, to a staunch pro-life stand that saw him veto a bill that would expand access to emergency contraception in hospitals and pharmacies, on pro-life grounds.  Romney revealed to Dushka prior to their falling out that he had only adopted his pro-choice stand because he’d been advised it would be more appealing to voters, and that his true position had always been one of pro-life.

Meanwhile, back in Australia

If an election were held in Australia today it would be won by the Coalition, headed by Tony Abbott. Mr Abbott is a Catholic. In 2004 when he was Federal Health Minister, Mr Abbott stated in an interview with ABC Radio’s AM program that he was concerned about the “abortion epidemic” apparently raging in Australia. He said:

I certainly share the concerns that many people have about the number of abortions that are taking place in Australia today. We have something like 100,000 abortions a year, 25 per cent of all pregnancies end in abortion and even the most determined pro-choice advocates these days seem to be rightly concerned at the way that the abortion epidemic has developed.

The then Health Minister was supported in his concerns by his then junior Minister, Christopher Pyne, who expressed his moral difficulties with late-term abortion.

On ABC Radio’s PM program November 15 2005, then Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott explained why he had refused to approve the use of the abortion pill RU-486 for Australian women as follows:

TONY ABBOTT: I conclude that there is no reason, based on the report from the Chief Medical Officer, to change longstanding practice in regards to RU-486.

 CATHERINE MCGRATH: But the AMA says itself, that it is the best and safest, or it is an option for the best and safest termination, where doctors are assessing the risks to the patient.

TONY ABBOTT: That’s not my reading of the report from the Chief Medical Officer. My reading of that report is that there are significant additional health risks associated with medical terminations, and that the safest way to have a termination is a surgical termination.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: To say the AMA is stunned is an understatement, and the peak medical body takes issue with the advice Tony Abbott has received.

The AMA said Mr Abbott’s information on RU-486 “is plain wrong” and “ignores international research.” The AMA further said that the drug would be denied to Australian women for political reasons.

Then there’s this piece on Abbott’s website titled: Rate of Abortion Highlights our Moral Failings. The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience… Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year… When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boatpeople, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.

The belief that the question of abortion is “morally black and white” is one Tony Abbott shares with evangelical Michele Bachmann, Mormon Mitt Romney, and fellow Catholic Rick Santorum. Australian women should be very concerned about living under an Abbott-led Coalition government. Abbott’s stated (and written) beliefs on abortion are deeply entrenched. As Federal Health Minister he managed to prevent Australian women accessing RU-486 on entirely spurious grounds, grounds that were fiercely contested by medical experts, and international research. This is the action of a man whose decisions about women’s reproductive rights are determined solely by his religious faith.

RU-486 is still not readily available. There are only approximately 100 doctors Australia-wide who are Authorised Prescribers of the drug, and then only within their own practices and hospitals, the majority of which are in capital cities.

Do Australian women want to risk Tony’s rosaries on our ovaries again?

Abortion in Australia is a state, not federal matter. Laws vary between the states. In NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania, abortion is subject to criminal law codes and acts. In the ACT there are no laws regarding abortion in the Crimes Act, and in Victoria the procedure is covered by the 2008 Abortion Law Reform Bill.

In Queensland in 2010 a young couple was prosecuted for obtaining an “unlawful abortion” after self-administering medication designed to cause early abortion. They were found not guilty. That such a case could be brought highlights the urgent need for abortion law reform in Australia. It’s well worth a visit to this site for examples of why such reform is imperative for women, and to see evidence that the Australian debate is in some quarters unnervingly similar to that in the USA.

An Abbott-led government is not good for Australian women’s reproductive health and our hard-won right to choose.

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