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Abbott promises to act on abortion

Federal Minister for Health, Tony Abbott, told a Catholic conference that abortion is a "stain on our national character" that can and should be reduced. "We can and should do something about it," Mr Abbott told the conference, which was attended by a number of bishops, including Cardinal Pell. Mr Abbott appealed to the assembly on several occasions to use their Catholic 'clout' to lobby for change in abortion laws. "I respectfully put it to the leaders of the church who are present here tonight that if, on a per capita basis, Catholics devoted as much moral energy to these 100,000 extinguished lives as we do to the far smaller number of children in detention, if senior Catholics were as morally indignant about the unambiguous moral tragedy of abortion as we are about the less clear cut question of immigration detention then there would be change. Then there would be change and change we should have."

The Minister expressed concern that Australia's social priorities were not in order, indicating that abortion resulted from teenage sex, and the refusal amongst single pregnant women to proceed with their pregnancy and choose adoption.

"If, as a society, we put as much interest in discouraging premature sexual activity as we do in discouraging drink driving or cigarette smoking; if, as a society, we re-established adoption as an alternative to abortion or sole parenthood; if, as a society, we cherished and celebrated motherhood as much as we cherish and celebrate success in the workplace, there would be far fewer abortions and we would be a happier and better society," Mr Abbott said.

According to Medicare, however, the proportion of Medicare-funded abortions being done for teenagers fell by more than 12 per cent in the last 10 years. Over the same period, the proportion of patients over 35 rose 37 per cent. It seems it is not teenagers who are having abortions, but women over 35.

Last year, for every two teenage abortions, there were three done for women over 35. Women attending abortion clinics in 2002 were 40% more likely to be married than patients attending 10 years previously.

Nor are women having screening their pregnancies in order to abort abnormal foetuses, at least in large numbers. In Victoria, there were 62,000 children born last year. Fewer than 5000 women chose to screen their unborn babies for chromosomal abnormalities. These tests identified 137 abnormal foetuses, 79 of them belonging to women aged over 35. Yet almost 4500 Victorian women over 35 terminated a pregnancy last year.

Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Gab Kovacs of Monash University says, "What this says to me is that the increasing abortion rate in this age group has very little to do with antenatal diagnosis," Kovacs says. "These abortions are not to do with an increase in abnormalities, but they are very likely to be done for family planning purposes."

The ageing of the abortion patient over the last ten years is thought to reflect the perceptions amongst the middle class battlers that a further child is simply unaffordable.

However Mr Abbott preferred to restrict his remarks to personal morality, or the lack of it, in his discussion of abortion. "How those of us who believe that Jesus came that we should have life and have it to the full can go through a single day without being haunted by the missing millions of Australians is beyond me."

Demonstrating his apparent willingness to act, Abbott said "I think there is a call there for all of us to do what we can to try to tackle that issue".

"The best that could possibly be said by anyone for abortion is that it might be a necessary evil but it is an evil that is now taken for granted in our society in a way that not even the most convinced feminist could have imagined possible 35 years ago.

"I don't believe that any of us, least of all the people in this room, should underestimate the strength of Australians' Christian commitment if that commitment is called for. We shouldn't underestimate what Australian Christians can do, " Mr Abbott concluded.

Read the Statement:

  • Tony Abbott's Full Speech

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  • Sydney Morning Herald













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