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About time, too

by Angela Shanahan

Finally the push is on to do something about the unacceptable number of abortions in Australia - nearly 100,000 at last count. Catholics should be putting their faith into action and give support to the health minister Tony Abbott and pro life MP Christopher Pyne who have called for a ban of post-20 week abortions. It is about time Australian Catholics realised that something CAN be done about abortion. The American pro life movement, which never gave up the struggle and drove the issue forward into the highest realms of politics has demonstrated this. We Australian catholics have an obligation to add our voices to the growing revulsion over late term abortion, and encourage the newly elected government to do something about it.

Recently Online Catholics featured a moving interview with a woman who had an abortion, a founder of Project Rachel. This project aims to give women who have had abortions a voice, and an alternative to abortion. A worthy aim, because the one thing that most women say when they leave the clinic is that "I had no choice". So much for the mantra of choice. However the principle reason that women do not have a choice is the very ease of abortion, which stems from it being a legal operation, trivialized as just a little operation - as a female journalist once described it to me - nothing more than a removal of an appendix. That means that society's expectations of what to do with an unwanted pregnancy is heavily weighted in favour of abortion. The so called 'choice' is already skewed toward abortion.

This is particularly the case in late-term abortion, especially since prenatal diagnosis is now the norm. Now EVERYONE can have a CVS (which is done at 6 weeks) or an amnioscentisis (which is done at 4 months). Why? We don't want 'imperfect' children and there is only one cure for imperfection - abortion. If there is any suggestion of a problem or imperfection, the only 'choice' is to abort. I myself have sat in a doctor's surgery and discussed the possibility of CVS testing and been told bluntly that if I wasn't prepared to abort the baby then I might just well not bother with the test.

This has lead to an epidemic of later abortion. Recently the Daily Telegraph's freedom of information reporter exposed the fact that late abortion are now routine in most maternity hospitals. Oddly however, most of this abortion according to a South Australian figure is done because of the 'mother's mental health. (Although what a twenty-week abortion would do to one's health one can only speculate) The following figures are from the Adelaide Advertiser :

From 1998 to 2002, there were 377 late-term abortions - classified as more than 20 weeks - of which 16 were performed at 24 weeks or later. The mother's mental state was the most common reason for late-term abortions, with 196 recorded in the five years.

Foetal abnormalities led to a further 171 abortions, with the remaining 10 being performed because the mother had developed a medical problem.

Right to Life Australia vice-president Dr John James said the figures "confirmed what we have always suspected". "The proponents of late-term abortion always insist the majority of such abortions are done almost entirely for severe congenital abnormalities," he said.

"The abnormalities in the 16 foetuses aborted at 24 weeks or later included spina bifida, Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18 which is a severe chromosomal disorder, skeletal growth abnormalities and a diaphragmatic hernia.

SA laws permit medical termination of pregnancy up to, but not including, 28 weeks' gestation for the sake of the mother's physical or mental health or if the child would be "seriously handicapped".

The medical chief of the Women's and Babies' Division of the Women's and Children's Hospital, Dr Ross Sweet, said late abortions were distressing for parents and not decided lightly:

"It's kicking and all those things, then they find a diagnosis that leads them to make this decision," he said. "They really need enormous support."

Yes, indeed but do they get it? No, far from it. Ninety per cent of babies with Down's syndrome are aborted in this country. This is simply eugenics. Catholics who believe in justice and peace cannot tolerate the legality of such practices. One would go as far as some bishops and say that Catholics who do not raise their voice about this are complicit in cruelty and a form of systemic social injustice that is comparable to slavery. We do not own our children, and we do not have the right to kill them.

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