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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 1998

Mr JARMAN (Deakin) - I thank the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) for cutting his speech short so that I could speak in this debate. I know that he had a lot that he wanted to say. I will be the last speaker in this debate. If I am cut off halfway through my speech or halfway through a sentence, the people listening to the broadcast and the people who will read Hansard will know that I have been cut off because of the gag put on this debate by honourable members on the Government side who are so embarrassed by this issue that they are stifling all debate on it.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to remember that that has nothing to do with the matter before the Chair.

Mr JARMAN - I was just explaining that, if I am cut off in the middle of a sentence, that will be the reason. Before the last election the Australian people were assured by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that abortion on demand was not an election issue. Yet within the first 6 sitting days of this Parliament 2 newly-elected Labor members from Victoria - the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) - gave notice thai they would introduce this Bill to legalise abortion on demand. We have all heard the story around the lobbies that this Bill is really the brainchild of several Ministers of this Government and that, in order not to involve the Government as such, 2 front men had to be found to do the hack work of proposing and seconding the Bill.

Mr Grassby - I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The honourable gentleman has cast aspersions on Federal Ministers, including myself, as being in some way involved in this Bill. I want to refute that and say that he has no right to cast those sorts of imputations in this debate. I ask him to withdraw his remarks as far as I am concerned.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! As everybody would know, this is a non-party Bill. I keep my ears pretty close to the ground and I know that what the honourable member said is incorrect.

Mr JARMAN - This Bill has the support of no less a personage that the Prime Minister himself. I am sorry that the Prime Minister was not able to speak in this debate.

Mr Armitage - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you have pointed out, this is a non-party issue. The honourable member is endeavouring to make it a party political issue and I submit that he is out of order in doing so.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no sub stance in the point of order.

Mr JARMAN - All of the things I have said are facts and, as you have ruled, Mr Speaker, there is no substance in the point of order. The fact is that the Prime Minister supports abortion on demand. I am very sorry that, due to the Premiers Conference today, he has not had the opportunity to speak in this debate. It is not only here that this matter will be propounded. In Victoria we could very well have a similar Bill coming forward after the next State election if the Labor Party should win. Mrs Coxsedge, a Labor Party candidate for Balwyn, has stated she would introduce a similar bill if elected.

Mr Keogh - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! If the honourable gentleman persists in going outside the motion before the Chair I will ask him to resume his seat.

Mr JARMAN - 1 am aware that some Labor Party members oppose this Bill, but the Bill emanates from 2 members of that Party. I do not think there are many people who would deny that, if a mother's life is in serious danger, the mother's life must be saved. The law relating to abortion is already sufficiently clear in that regard. Death due to childbirth is a very rare occurrence in these days of modern medicine. Under the ruling of Mr Justice Menhennit, abortion can be legally carried out by a qualified medical practitioner if the life or mental or physical health of the mother are in danger. The proposed McKenzieLamb legislation is far wider and far more extreme in its provisions.

Originally the Bill provided for abortion on demand up to 16 weeks of pregnancy, not on medical grounds, not to save the life of the mother, but for no other purpose than that for some reason or other which she need not disclose, the mother did not want to go through with the pregnancy. Because of the vast outcry from concerned citizens throughout the Commonwealth the Bill was at first watered down to allow for abortion only up to 12 weeks instead of the 16 weeks originally planned. But it soon became obvious that a sufficient number of members was not prepared to fly in the face of public opinion to enable the passage of the Bill. So another subterfuge had to be found to get around the defeat of the Bill, and one perhaps senses the astute hand of the Prime Minister here. It is the old story of 2 steps forward and one step back. But one is still one step forward after the procedure. Even if this Bill is not passed - I sincerely hope that it will not be passed - and if a committee of inquiry is set up. that would be one step forward towards the situation which the abortion on demand people wish to achieve.

The Melbourne 'Age' published a letter to the editor the other day from a person called K. Shaw of Carlton. It said:

Sir. Itis very infuriating to realise that it is men who are largely responsible for the campaign opposing the Medical Practice Clarification Act, and men who will vote on the Bill. The person whom this Bill will affect most, the woman, has almost no say in deciding what control she has over her body.

I would say only this in reply to K. Shaw of Carlton: There is someone whom this Bill concerns and will affect far more than the woman, and that is the child who will have his or her life denied under the provisions of the Bill. There is no doubt in my mind or in the minds of most doctors that the baby's life commences and that the baby begins to grow from the moment of conception. Even the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) admitted that last night on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program on which we both appeared. At 4 weeks after conception the heart of the baby is beating. At 7 weeks his face is completely formed; he has 20 milk teeth buds; he has eyelashes and eyebrows. At 10 weeks the baby can move himself, and at 11 weeks he can even suck his thumb. It is at about this stage, and even later, that this Bill will allow the life of the baby to be terminated, for no other reason than that the mother does not want to go through with the pregnancy.

I cannot see how any Christian who purports to believe that God creates life can believe that anyone other than God should take that life away. Not even the mother should have that right. Even the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) who is a doctor of medicine and the Minister for the Environment and Conservation in the Federal Government and a strong supporter of the Bill, has been honest enough to say in the Press on 17th November 1972:

Some people say abortion is murder. I am inclined to think it is. I can see that it is destroying life.

Yet, this Minister supports abortion on demand and he will apparently be voting for this Bill today. He even called on the proabortionists in a Press release last night to harass members who vote against it. There has been an attempt by some sections of the Press and some pro-abortionists to brand the anti-abortion on demand movement as some sort of sinister plot by the Roman Catholic Church. It is true that Catholics are concerned at the provisions of this Bill, and rightly so. But so too are the Anglican archbishops, the Baptists and people of many faiths. Onlylast Thursday the Presbyterian Assembly, the Church of which I am a communicant member, rejected a recommendation for the liberalisation of the present laws relating to abortion.

The statement made by the honourable member for Diamond Valley in his speech that the position was otherwise is not correct. The report of the sub-committee was rejected and sent back to that committee for further consideration. Fifty-nine Church leaders of all faiths have signed a statement appealing to politicians, organisations and citizens to protest against this Bill. The feeling against the Bill is not confined to any one section of the community; it runs high and wide, and is shared by all concerned - men and women, labourers and professional men, doctors and lawyers, rich and poor and young and old. Let us look at some of the arguments raised by those who are in favour of abortion on demand. They talk about unwanted children. There are no unwanted children; there are only unwanting parents. Even if the parents do not want them, there are thousands of childless couples crying out to adopt children in the hope of building a family. Recently an article appeared in the 'Melbourne Herald" which stated: 'The adoption list to close' and went on to say that there were not enough children to meet the demands of parents who wanted to adopt them.

We have been told that as illegal abortions occur we might as well legalise them. This argument is as specious as saying that as pot is smoked or as burglaries or murders occur, we might as well legalise them also. The figures in fact show that since the legislation of abortion on demand in Britain the incidence of backyard abortions has shown no decrease. Then we are told that only women should be responsible for the decision to destroy the foetus. What about the father? It is his child equally with the mother. What about the child who may be a mother or father one day if allowed to live out the span of her or his natural life? To say that women should have the say as to whether abortion on demand is legalised is as ridiculous as saying that only criminals should say what facilities should be provided to prisoners in gaols.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The time allowed for the debate has expired.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Mathews' amendment) stand part of the question.

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