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Post election 'abortion distortions'

A 22 page glossy brochure entitled Abortion & Religion in Australia: Where do our Religions stand on Abortion in Australian Society? has been issued to all NSW Members of Parliament. The brochure, which is subtitled "An authoritative reference of interest to all Australians" contains position statements on abortion by 16 faith groups but is actually published by a right wing Catholic organisation called the Foundation for Human Development.

The distribution of the brochure, which was produced by the Sydney advertising agency Linton Tinkler Pty Ltd, follows another substantial anti abortion initiative held recently in Sydney, but which has received little coverage.

Selected women were emailed by organiser Mima Chin inviting them to a 'Women's Forum" on 8 December at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney. The purpose of the meeting was to demonstrate public concern about the rate of abortion in Australia. This weekend, women were emailed by Ms Chin, who is a parent at the Opus Dei school Redfields in Dural. They were invited to support a number of pro-life organisations including the Foundation for Human Development, and to participate in a media lobbying organisation, the Media Action Group.

"The media is a powerful force for influencing society and shaping public opinion on issues such as abortion," Ms Chin writes. "Media Action Group (MAG) is an informal network that helps busy people have their say in the media... MAG itself does not speak out because the emphasis is on personal initiative. Each person's small contribution (eg. a letter to the editor, a call to talk back radio) is made more effective by the impact of many people acting together."

An aim of the meeting was to initiate a new women's organisation, according to one of the organisers, Deakin University law lecturer Rachael Patterson. According to Children by Choice's Cait Calcutt, a similar organisation has been created in the United States, Concerned Women for America.

"Much of the anti choice movement takes a lot of its strategy ideas from the United States," Ms Calcut says. "Currently a popular one is that abortion is always psychologically damaging. But comprehensive reviews conducted by the Newcastle Institute of Public Health, Romans-Clarkson, and the American Psychological Association concluded that voluntary termination of pregnancy rarely causes immediate or lasting negative psychological consequences in healthy women. The research tends to suggest that it is somewhere around 2%-5% of women who terminate a pregnancy that have a negative psychological response following the procedure," Ms Calcutt said.

While abortion is a State matter in Australia, the Federal government is involved through payment of Medicare rebates and a possibility exists that it could introduce legislation to restrict access.

"Removal of government funding which partially subsidises the procedure will place the cost of services out reach of poorer women. This will not result in women happily turning to the alternative of adoption, as some anti-choice commentators would have us believe," Cait Calcutt says. "Rather it will place such women in a risky and precarious situation and may lead them to try to self abort."

But the Sydney women's forum organisers disagree. In a handout given to the women who attended the Sheraton meeting entitled 'Abortion Distortions', Toowoomba Dr David van Gend argues that the 'backyard butcher' is a myth. "Making abortion legal or illegal has never, historically, made the slightest difference to the safety of women."

Both the Women's Forum and the brochure directed at parliamentarians are thought to be part of attempts to keep the abortion debate alive following the Prime Minister's hosing down of Health Minister Tony Abbott after he claimed that the nation's 'moral degeneracy' was responsible for an 'epidemic' of abortions.

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