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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 1976


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - The House should reject this Bill. The scope of this Bill is confined to the Australian Capital Territory, so it will not touch police corruption in Melbourne. Nor is there anything in the Bill which makes a difference to the factor of poverty or the factor of wealth in a woman being able to pay for an abortion. It is unfortunate that the royal commission proposal, while it has very great merit in itself, is moved today because inevitably it will be interpreted as an attempt on the part of those who support it to evade a decision on the central issue, and that is unfortunate because the proposal has merits in it.

Innocent human life, in whatever stage of development, should be secure from the very first moment of its existence from any direct and wilful attack. This is the essential right of the human person, without which obviously no other rights will exist for that person, lt is as valid a legal and human right for the life still hidden in the womb of its mother as it is for the life already born and proceeding with an existence independently of the mother. It is not a matter of belief that the embryo is a human person, lt is a matter of knowledge that the embryo state is a part of human growth. If I had had my eldest son aborted in the first 12 weeks of his existence he would not now be here.

Whatever reasons there may be for drawing legal distinctions between human rights and human responsibilities at different phases of life, abortion used as a deliberate means of destroying a life, and not as a means of saving a life, is a grave attack upon the inviolability of human life, and ought to be an unlawful attack on the inviolability of human life. I will not discuss the side issues, important though they are, of justifiable abortion. This Bill does not seek any grounds of justification. It authorises the intentional destruction, ultimately on simple request, of unborn children in the first 12 weeks of their existence. The mother may be healthy and wealthy and the child in perfect development. It is enough that the woman wants it destroyed. If she is married there is no provision for consulting the husband as to whether he wants it destroyed. The widespread assertion of the need for such methods of contraception-by-killing is the measure of the degree to which social values have become callous and ruthless.

In the Bill a 'female1 can be any age. If she is a girl of twelve or thirteen there is no provision for consulting her parents, who might surround her with protection and care, and who might find what undesirable associations have led her to grave difficulty. To the malice of an assault on innocent life the Bill in its present form adds the malice of assault on marriages and families. The humane sound that has been uttered in its defence of groundless abortion is the suggestion that it will get rid of backyard abortions. All other utterances are the utterances of a campaign to turn the law to support the malice of assault on human life, and to leave the law not fitting together, with jagged inconsistencies about honestly reporting causes of death and still births. And the Bill does not dare to utter in law what it will force in practice, namely, that the obligation to endeavour to resuscitate the life of an infant no longer rests on nurses or doctors. They are both turned by groundless abortion from being healers to being killers. From a purely medical viewpoint abortion conflicts with the only valid ideals and principles of the medical profession, namely, that it exists to protect life.

Not the slightest evidence has been produced that Canberra has such a problem of backyard abortion that this Bill was needed to solve that problem. The Bill is not presented to solve a problem of backyard abortions in Canberra. It is presented to use Canberra as an ideological sounding board to affirm certain principles, no doubt believed to be progressive, but which in fact are utterly retrogressive. As this campaign for abortion has proceeded, it is notable that concern for child endowment, maternity welfare, reduction of neo-natal, infant and child mortality of Aborigines have all been played off the stage. The slogan has been uttered that people are pollution. This emanates from Professor Ehrlich, whose intellect was admired by some Australians recently when he visited the country, and his stated aim is compulsory abortion after the second child. Such a thing would be a logical step from this Bill. That stated aim is in his book.

Compulsion in the first instance, however, will press on the nurses and doctors - or at any rate a pressure great enough to amount to compulsion will apply to nurses, for nurses who will not perform abortions soon find they are out of a job wherever abortion is legal. The views of the union most directly involved - the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation - deserve consideration. The President wrote to me saying she had been instructed by her council to voice strong opposition to the proposed Medical Practice Clarification Bill and affirmed, inter alia:

It is the traditional role of the nurse to assist at surgical procedures and to dispose of the product of such procedures. Experience in other countries indicates that nurses, involved in abortion procedures such as those outlined above, where the product requiring disposal is living tissue with complete identifiable human form, have suffered marked anxiety and conflict due to dichotomy of standards concerning preservation of life.

Nurses in the ward situation delivering pre and post-operative care experience similar anxiety in attempting to fulfil their role of supplying emotional support to the patient who is frequently herself involved in conflict.

We would remind you that 'A foetus of twenty weeks or more or weighing over four hundred grammes must be registered as a live or still birth*.

Further, we see this Act as being detrimental to future nursing recruitment. Already we have been questioned by prospective students and concerned parents regarding the role of the nurse in this situation.

What the Royal Australian Nursing Federation Branch here in Canberra, which is facing the possibility that the Medical Practice Clarification Bill might become an Act, says confirms experience overseas. In March 1970 Hawaii became the first State of the United States to legislate that abortion should be a personal matter to be decided between a woman and her physician. The American Journal of Psychiatry recently published an article by Walter F. Char, M.D. and John McDermott, M.D., in an article entitled Abortions and Acute Identity Crisis in Nurses' wrote:

Within 6 weeks the authors were urgently consulted by 2 hospitals regarding the acute psychological reactions their nurses were having in response to their abortion work.

The article goes on to comment that the symptoms were due to an acute identity crisis regarding their nursing roles caused by their abortion activities. Putting this more simply, this is an utter contradiction between the ideal which took people into nursing - the ideal to heal and save life - and being required to terminate life in a recognisable human being. An embryo of 20 weeks or more or weighing over 400 grames must be registered as a live or still birth. It is not uncommon at 23 weeks or more for the embryo to breathe and attempt independent life. The question then arises: Should the medical officer take measures to resuscitate the child or just let it die? If the child should survive, is a birth certificate to be written out, and if the child dies what is the cause of death to be inserted in the death certificate? The nurses of Canberra want to know whether a deliberate abortion is to be registered as a still birth.

We are taking very seriously the views of unions which point out the possible dangers of fallout from French atomic tests to unborn Australian children - a danger by radiation. That danger is a matter of speculation, and estimates of the degree of possible harm vary from nothing to something formidable. It is one of the possibilities which has caused the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to organise a world boycott of France. The Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation does not have to speculate on the consequences of the proposed Medical Practice Clarification Bill. The Bill involves the slaying of recognisable human beings. This is fact, not speculation. The nurses' organisation is the union concerned and it points out the known consequences in nervous breakdown to nurses who are called on to repudiate the fundamental motive which led them into the profession - the motive to save life. I believe that women who happen to be nurses should be liberated from this prospective violation of their nature as women and this repudiation of the very raison d'etre of the nursing profession.

The title of the Bill is quite misleading. It does not seek to clarify the law. It seeks drastically to amend it and to legalise the destruction of healthy embryos in healthy mothers. It does not pretend that there need be any ground of poverty, bad heredity, likely impairment because of such factors as rubella, or any other ground. Five years ago when the Attorney-General, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H, Bowen) gave an answer to a question asked on 4th

April 1968 in this House of Representatives. He commented concerning abortion:

It would be undesirable to have the position in this Territory so different that it might become a place of resort for people who wished to procure abortions.

This Bill makes Canberra such a place of resort and its tendency must be to overstrain the medical facilities of Canberra. In the first weeks of pregnancy the justification for abortion under this Bill is simply demand. What is involved is a deadly form of contraception at enormous expense - contraception after conception. It is birth control literally by killing. If Parliament legalises this, it must logically provide for it under national health legislation. There is very little doubt that the Government will be called upon to pay for this most expensive form of contraception. A considerable number of women come back for several abortions. I doubt if they would be less than $150 a time in operation fees alone, let alone the social cost in hospital or clinical organisation.

The Bill is very difficult to discuss because it has gone through constant changes. It has nothing positive to say. It is quite, uncreative to produce a Bill on abortion causing that subject to stand in isolation. Admittedly this procedure sweeps away all pretences of a humane concern for the child. Such concern would be to find why people are pressured towards abortion; how unwed mothers might have proper care and hospital attention to give natural birth to their children; the procedures of adoption; the provision of government subsidised day care and after school centres for children of working parents; payment of equal tax rebates for dependants, rather than the present system of concessional deductions; increased welfare benefits for deserted and/ or unmarried mothers; removal of legislative discrimination and positive action to suppress social and commercial discrimination against unwed mothers, de facto wives and illegitimate children.

There are a number of disastrous consequences arising from legalising the slaying of unborn children. I mentioned the objection of the Canberra nurses to the undermining of the laws regarding the registration of birth and death. It is one of the features of our society - and wherever this feature exists it is a very vital step in progress - that all births and deaths must be accounted for. The legalisation of abortion in Britain has provided infant bodies as raw material for scientific experiments. The more developed the unborn child the more certain laboratories seek the child's body for experiment. No pretence is then made about the. fact that this is human tissue, though in other contexts there is the attempt to suggest that the embryo is not human.

Nazi Germany used Jews and Russian prisoners of war for extremely cruel experiments. These experiments are detailed with the. greatest care in a book entitled 'Doctors of Infamy', by A. Mitscherlicke and F. Mielke The book points out that none of these experiments in Nazi Germany were worth anything in advancing medical knowledge. What they did was to debase, utterly medical standards and the medical profession. It is interesting that Sir Alexander Fleming and Lord Florey of Adelaide discovered penicillin in a mould and this has saved millions of lives. No knowledge and no medical advance comparable to this came out of experiments in Nazi Germany.

Abortion deaths are deliberate, deaths, not still-births. Deaths without accountability are the quintessence of social reaction and decline. It was a marked advance in social accountability for the wellbeing of every member of society when the British Anatomy Act was passed. The abortion laws in the United Kingdom now enable the provision of subjects for medical experiments and anatomical study by artificially producing death. If it has been true, as has been stated in the Press, that crying unborn infants have been taken for destruction in furnaces, or embryos in an advanced stage of development are used for experiments, the advances in the Anatomy Act have in truth been destroyed, and I do not want them destroyed in Australia.

There is no rational ground for creating a special abortion law for the city of Canberra. Its tendency must be either to overwhelm Canberra hospitals or to make it a city of special abortion clinics - a grave departure from the idea of a civic and social excellence as a model for Australia. Canberra is significant, however, as an ideological model. If this law is once passed for Canberra, intense pressure will be exerted in the States to follow the Canberra model. The prestige of Canberra as the model city will thus be put to a disastrous use. All of these features are insignificant, however, compared with the view of man which inevitably develops. First and foremost he is expendable. The Bill provides for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks; abortion on the opinion of 2 medical practitioners between 12 weeks and 23 weeks. You will observe that quite logically the Bill does not evince any great excitement about the misdeed of terminating a pregnancy after 23 weeks.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.


Mr BEAZLEY - The idea of the sanctity of human life is, in fact, the mainspring of all social advance. I am currently trying to speed the development of child care centres. In the Northern Territory these can mean the saving of Aboriginal child life, for children in such centres are seen by infant welfare sisters and, as a consequence, their health problems are treated. Otherwise Aboriginal neo-natal infant and child mortality is as much as 10 times that of Europeans. There is less and less community passion involved in changing this situation as convictions about the sanctity of life diminish. The abortion campaign diminishes such conviction. Recently unmarried girls who have Commonwealth tertiary scholarships and who have become mothers have, by my decision, had a dependant's allowance extended to them. This is a declaration of the sanctity of life and an affirmation that the mother should have no pressure upon her, through economic need, to destroy life.

Recently Mr Bob Hawke on television said that the whole of the French trade was not worth the life of one Australian unborn child. The whole of the French trade is worth $197m, so Mr Bob Hawke has certainly valued - and I think very rightly - every unborn Australian as a royal soul and I cannot imagine that anybody could justify the destruction of children of that value nor justify their use in experiments where they are regarded merely as human tissue. It is not enough simply to oppose abortion, we need to affirm the sanctity of life in many practical ways. We need a major effort to reduce Aboriginal neo-natal infant and child mortality. We need a major effort to help handicapped children. We need a new concern for assistance to children in poor families. We need realistic assistance for unmarried mothers - not merely the assistance of social security payments but advice about their children, advice about employment, advice about child care centres, advice about the education of their children. We need the development of community services to help the child who is battered or harmed in unsatisfactory homes. In short, we need a total program on the sanctity of child life. It is a tragedy, I think, that our attention is being diverted to how children can be eliminated when the attention of this Parliament is very much needed to how they can be advanced.







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