by Steven Ertelt
August 17, 2006
Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — Abortion advocates in Australia have been upset that a government-funded pregnancy counseling program may be tilted towards helping pregnant women find abortion alternatives. They proposed legislation to have the program do more to promote abortions and a legislative panel rejected it for that reason.
A Senate committee defeated the bill, which calls for more fairness in the pregnancy counseling program, saying it would promote abortions.
A minority of members of the committee said the bill was needed to prevent the service from misleading women that it provided comprehensive counseling but really just counseled against abortions.
Liberal senator Gary Humphries, the committee chairman, told the Sydney Morning Herald, "The majority position is that the bill should be rejected."
"There are a variety of reasons for coming to this view. Essentially the majority of the committee viewed the bill as having a number of significant flaws," he told the newspaper.
The majority report indicated the bill would promote abortions.
"This is contrary to good public policy which should reflect the widespread consensus, evident in the parliament and elsewhere at the time of RU 486 legislation was considered, that there are to many abortions in Australia," it said, according to the Herald.
Humphries also said the bill had constitutional concerns by trying to subject the counseling program to trade and commerce rules meant for businesses to a nonprofit program staffed by volunteers.
Australian Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja introduced the legislation and she is one of the main MPs backing legislation to overturn Australia’s ban on human cloning.
Health Minister Tony Abbott, who is pro-life, said before the report was issued that he wanted to see it first before making any judgment about whether more regulations of pregnancy counseling programs were needed.
Abbott came under fire form abortion advocates in February for his plan to spend $60 million over five years to provide women counseling and assistance in finding abortion alternatives.
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.
The proposal came after the Australian parliament voted to allow a drug agency to rule whether or not the dangerous abortion drug mifepristone could be sold in Australia. Two abortion practitioners since then have been authorized to dispense the RU 486 drug.
Humphries said the debate over the bill had been emotional and committee members received more than 6,000 letters and emails regarding it.