Abbott defends stance on virginity and sex


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27-01-2010 05:31 PM


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27-01-2010 05:31 PM



27-01-2010 06:36 PM

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2010-01-27 17:31:16

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Abbott defends stance on virginity and sex -

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SHANE MCLEOD: Tony Abbott has been defending his comments about premarital sex and contraception.

In an interview with a monthly women's magazine, the Opposition leader said women "shouldn't give
themselves away lightly". And he referred to virginity as "the greatest gift" that you could give
to someone.

His political opponents and feminists have slammed the comments as old-fashioned and unwelcome. But
Mr Abbott now says the comments were directed only at his daughters, and that he wasn't trying to
preach to anyone.

Ashley Hall reports.

ASHLEY HALL: Sex and contraception are among just a few hot-button issues left in political debate.
So when Tony Abbott this week told the Australian Women's Weekly that virginity is the greatest
gift you could give someone, and that women shouldn't give themselves away lightly, a furore was
sure to follow. And it did. The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was first to attack.

JULIA GILLARD: Australian women don't want to be told what to do by Tony Abbott. Australian women
want to make their own choices.

ASHLEY HALL: She was quickly followed by Catharine Lumby, the director of the Journalism and
Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

CATHARINE LUMBY: Essentially he equates the sexual purity of women with their suitability for being
partners, wives and mothers. Now we no longer simply value women on that basis. We see men and
women on the main as equal partners.

ASHLEY HALL: But Mr Abbott rejects the criticism as political point-scoring. He says his comments
were taken out of context.

TONY ABBOTT: I was asked what's the advice that I would give to my own kids. Now, obviously a
parent talking to his or her own children is going to be saying different things than someone
talking to the world at large, so to speak.

ASHLEY HALL: This morning, he told Macquarie Radio that he wasn't trying to preach to Australians.

TONY ABBOTT: As the parent of teenage kids, I wrestle with these things. I think all parents do
under those circumstances, and I was trying to give an honest response to a journalist who I think
was asking honest questions.

ASHLEY HALL: But the context makes little difference to Catharine Lumby.

CATHARINE LUMBY: There's an ugly truth behind that statement. The ugly truth is that for many, many
years, fathers saw their daughters as legal property, they passed them on to husbands who saw them
as property, and the proof of that contract was that the women were virgins. It's about the sexual
ownership of women. And I think the majority of Australians have got beyond that.

ASHLEY HALL: Mr Abbott says he's more likely to face questions about so-called moral dilemmas than
other politicians because his past includes three years training to be a priest.

But it's precisely the way that deeply held Catholic faith informs Mr Abbott's public and private
views that matters, according to Leslie Cannold, an ethicist, writer and honorary fellow at the
University of Melbourne's school of philosophy.

LESLIE CANNOLD: You can have very religious people who are practising politicians who understand
very clearly. Look, I have a particular philosophy, a moral philosophy, a religious philosophy. I
think it's right that I follow it, but I understand that in this country the way that we ought to
operate is that these are private, moral issues and everybody ought to live according to their own
morals and religious views which may be different to mine. Tony Abbot does not believe that.

ASHLEY HALL: The adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says he was initially concerned when
he heard about Mr Abbott's remarks. Now the comments have been put in context, Dr Carr-Gregg says
it's refreshing to hear a politician, and father, speak in this way.

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Here's a politician who isn't tip-toeing around this. He's clearly got a value
base and he's articulating it, and I guess it's up to mums and dads across Australia as to whether
or not they wish to follow. So I guess I'm feeling, well, no-one's left in any doubt as to where he

ASHLEY HALL: But not everyone finds Mr Abbott's views on sex refreshing, as PM found out on the
streets of Sydney.

VOX POP: Not really. I don't think it's their, like decision.

VOX POP 2: Ethics shouldn't really be a politician's place, or some, but not something personal
such as a woman's virginity.

VOX POP 3: Well coming from a Christian background, I support the whole virginity thing before
marriage. So, but yeah it just has to be said in the right forum as he said.

VOX POP 4: I think that his choice of words was most unfortunate because it played into the media's
hands. But basically what he thought is probably what a lot of parents are thinking and I don't
think that if that was advice that was in a personal family situation that was given, that would
necessarily be a bad thing.

SHANE MCLEOD: Some views from the streets of Sydney, ending Ashley Hall's report.