Australia Poll Shows Abortion Support, Catholic Pregnancy Outreach Begins

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 29, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Poll Shows Abortion Support, Catholic Pregnancy Outreach Begins Email this article
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by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
December 29, 2004

Canberra, Australia ( — Young Australians are more likely than their elders to be against late-term abortions, according to a new poll. Meanwhile the Catholic Church in the island nation is beginning a new outreach to pregnant women to help them choose abortion alternatives.

The Newspoll survey, conducted for The Australian newspaper, showed that 18- to 34-year-olds were the age group most inclined to oppose abortions in the latter stages of pregnancy.

The survey also showed that, overall, only 15 percent of Australians support late-term abortion.

The poll showed that fifty percent of Australians believe women should have access to abortion on demand. Thirty-nine percent support abortion if it can be proven the pregnancy will cause psychological or medical harm to the mother.

Pro-life advocates note, however, that abortion is more likely than childbirth to cause adverse psychological effects for a mother. They also point out that women continue to die from abortion, despite claims from abortion advocates that legal abortion is safe.

Only seven percent of those surveyed say abortion should not be permitted under any circumstances.

The overall poll results are similar to a Newspoll conducted eight years ago.

“It (the poll result) is disappointing to us; it clearly presents a challenge to the churches that our message is not persuading people and we have to take stock of that,” Catholic Bishop Anthony Fisher, a spokesman for the new Centacare Pregnancy Support program, told The Australian.

The program is designed to provide assistance and support to women to help them to give birth to their babies.

In announcing the program, the Archbishop of Sidney, George Pell, told the Australian press, “Women need real alternatives to abortion, and while the Catholic Church provides many family services, this new Pregnancy Support Program is targeted to meet the specific needs of women contemplating abortion. We want to respond to the needs of women facing an unexpected or difficult pregnancy by providing them with life-affirming options."

"This will be a professional counseling and support service to women and their partners and families, as well as a referral service for accommodation and appropriate ongoing support services. Obviously spiritual help will be offered if it is requested,” Pell added.

The Centacare program will be available in Sydney starting in January.

Similar programs are already in place in New Zealand and Scotland.

Recently 43 Australian Catholic bishops announced the creation of a task force to examine counseling procedures and adoption strategies in the event of unexpected pregnancies.

In addition, a non-denominational organization with a pro-life, pro-woman philosophy has formed to help address the root causes of abortion.

The group’s organizer, Rachael Patterson, said the group would address the social, economic, and health issues affecting women, including abortion.

“Although we are certainly not limited to the abortion issue, something we will be trying to change is the way this debate has been structured,” Patterson told the Australian press.

"The labels that are typically used in this debate are not particularly useful. Instead of two sides hurling abuse at one another in a rather sterile debate, we would like to see a more sophisticated debate on how women might be provided with real alternatives. Pretending that 100,000 or so abortions is fine doesn’t do women any favors. Nor does asserting that abortion doesn’t have any negative repercussions for women."

"On the other hand, however, we are not about criminalizing women. If we want to see a reduction in the number of abortions we need to look at why women are having them and look to addressing or removing these causative factors," Patterson added.

The group is exploring policy options such as government-backed paid maternity leave, a waiver of university fees for mothers and subsidized or free child care for mothers on campus.

The poll results seem to reaffirm the need for greater support for women facing unexpected pregnancies. Meanwhile, pro-life leaders concede that Australian culture must change before its abortion laws can be changed.

"Clearly, there’s not going to be change in the law unless there’s a major cultural shift. I concede that," Bishop Fisher added. However, he noted there’s a growing consensus that options other than abortion need to be pursued.

The poll also showed that women were more likely to support abortion than men. The results indicated 52 percent of women support abortion on demand, compared with 47 percent of men.

Last month, a number of federal coalition MPs expressed alarm at the number of late-term abortions conducted in Australia. However, Prime Minister John Howard said the government has no plans to change its abortion policy.