by Steven Ertelt
February 17, 2006
Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — After being stripped of his authority to prohibit the use of the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, pro-life Australia Health Minister Tony Abbott has announced a plan to spend $60 million over five years to provide women counseling and assistance in finding abortion alternatives.
He is expected to take the proposal soon to the government cabinet and is calling for funds for a national pregnant support hotline and additional counseling for women with unplanned pregnancies.
The 24 hour a day hotline would be funded with $12 million over four years. A second part would consist of a Medicare rebate to provide women three counseling sessions with psychologists or other medical professionals.
The proposals have the support of Prime Minister John Howard.
"Given the majority view of the Australian community about the present law, what can we do as a nation to reduce the number of [abortions]," he told ABC Radio.
"And there is more, I believe, that can be done to provide people on a voluntary basis with counseling and support in relation to alternatives," he added. "And I believe very strongly that more should be done, and I will be bringing that view in the appropriate places very strongly in the weeks and months ahead."
Some members of parliament have already announced their concerns or opposition to the plan.
Senator Stott Despoja told the Sydney Morning Herald that the government already allocates $200,000 to the Australian Federation of Pregnancy Support Services, a group of crisis pregnancy centers. He wants the centers to be forced to declare their pro-life stance in advertising.
Labor’s health spokeswoman Julia Gillard said she supports the idea but she doesn’t want the money to go solely for abortion alternatives counseling.
"Why should the Government only support counseling for a pregnant woman who is grappling with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy," she asked.