Australia Abortion Debate Grows Contentious as John Howard, Others Collide

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 4, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Abortion Debate Grows Contentious as John Howard, Others Collide Email this article
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by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
November 4, 2004

Canberra, Australia ( — Australia’s Family First party believes every woman considering a publicly-funded abortion should have an ultrasound first. The view mirrors reports from the U.S. showing that virtually all women who view an ultrasound opt against having an abortion.

Victorian senator-elect Steve Fielding, a member of the party, said, "Our position is that, at the bare minimum, adequate information should be at hand for people to make a considered decision. This may include counseling and may also include scans of these unborn children— it’s very important this decision is not done light-heartedly."

The Courier-Mail newspaper has reported that the abortion issue has been discussed between Family First and Prime Minister John Howard.

Meanwhile, Australia appears to be engaged in a monumental debate over late-term abortions.

Minister for Aging Julie Bishop opposes a ban on such abortions, saying it would be “a very retrograde step."

But Health Minister Tony Abbott has complained about what he refers to as Australia’s abortion epidemic. Abbott refused to rule out the possibility of halting Medicare funding for pregnancies ended after 21 weeks. He has called Australia’s abortion rate a national tragedy and has urged the Catholic Church to increase political pressure to reduce abortion.

Abbott told the Australian media, “Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right, should surely be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year."

The new parliamentary secretary for health, Christopher Pyne, has called for a ban on abortions after 12 weeks except in extreme circumstances. Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has called Australia’s abortion rate “worryingly high" and says that the number of abortions performed in the country have “got out of hand."

Australian media are now reporting that MPs have been warned against making public statements on the issue of abortion.

Meanwhile, Francis Sullivan of Catholic Health Australia has called for an investigation to be conducted by all health ministers in Australia about the abortion rate and what’s going on in the abortion industry.

Sullivan told the Australian media, “I think what Tony Abbott’s calling for is a greater public debate and in a sense a greater public awareness around the rate of abortion and I know that he and Christopher Pyne and others have focused specifically on late-term abortions."