A woman’s decision to have an abortion is not always her own, writes Charles Francis QC.
having an abortion
was the lowest
moment of my life
In lobbying for making abortion freely available, feminists always talk about the importance of abortion being a choice to which every woman is entitled. Indeed, those who support abortion rights always describe themselves as “pro-choice”, never as “pro-abortion”.
As a personal injury lawyer who acted for women who sued abortionists, I found that a woman’s decision to have an abortion often was not her own but that of someone else, such as her husband, partner or family.
Whenever abortion is made more freely available it enables other people to put even greater pressure on a woman to abort her unborn child. If all abortion is legalised in Victoria, husbands, partners and other people will tell the pregnant woman that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her having an abortion, as it now has the full approval of the law.
In her recently published and excellent book, Redeeming Grief, Anne Lastman, who has treated more than 1,000 women for psychological trauma following abortion, analyses incisively the problem of “the woman’s choice”.
Before any decision is made in relation to our present law in Victoria, our politicians should study what is happening in the United States.
Recent research by the Elliott Institute indicated that the majority of women felt rushed and uncertain before their abortion, and 64 per cent felt pressured by others. 79 per cent were not counselled about alternatives, and 88 per cent indicated they would have had their child if they had had support.
Such information is becoming far better known in the US since the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) was launched in 2003 as a joint project by Anglicans for Life and Priests for Life.
At 189 gatherings in 44 American states and in six other countries, 2,326 men and women have publicly shared their testimonies about the negative after-effects of abortion, raising an awareness of its hurtful aftermath.
Among other consequences, this campaign has made far more people aware that abortion is not necessarily a woman’s choice. Seven states have already passed anti-coercion acts. At present a Wisconsin bill has passed its judiciary committee stage and is awaiting a vote by the full legislative body.
Speaking of the proposed Wisconsin bill, Georgette Forney, co-founder of SNMAC, said: “In recent months alone, we’ve seen numerous high-profile news stories about women threatened and intimidated by their parents, boyfriends, and others into having abortions.
“I know from talking to thousands of women that these are not isolated cases. I also know that the pain and torment can only be magnified when a woman submits involuntarily to the taking of her child. I don’t see how anyone could oppose this measure.”
Leaders of SNMAC said the bill was needed across the whole country. They might well have added it was needed in Australia.
Section 1 of the Wisconsin bill proclaims: “The physician who is to perform or induce the abortion shall determine whether or not the woman’s consent is, in fact, voluntary.” Under Section 2, a woman’s consent is not deemed voluntary “if anyone is coercing her to consent to an abortion against her will, and that it is unlawful … to perform or induce the abortion without her voluntary consent”.
When Victorian MP Candy Broad’s bill to legalise all abortion came before state parliament, Premier John Brumby took an inappropriate course, sending the question of legalising abortion to Victoria’s Law Reform Commission.
The VLRC probably has no specialist knowledge of how the abortion industry operates, nor of the harm it does to women. The question is primarily a moral and social issue, with the need for proper and genuinely independent medical input.
The question should be determined by our MPs representing us the people, and bearing responsibility for what happens in the state. However, our MPs cannot make a proper decision unless fully informed on just what has happened since Victoria’s 1969 Menhennitt ruling, which first permitted abortions under restricted circumstances.
There is a grave risk the VLRC may think this is simply a women’s issue and will rubber-stamp whatever proposals are made by the left-wing feminist lobby Emily’s List as purporting to know the best interests of women.
Without any proper analysis of abortion, Emily’s List has embraced abortion rights as some holy grail, whereas it is a poisoned chalice.
In any proper terms of reference given to the VLRC – designed not simply to legalise abortion but to protect women from the harm done by abortion – many legal issues require consideration, not least what legal safeguards would ensure that, when a woman seeks abortion, the decision is her own choice, and that she is aware of other options.
The Academy Award-winning actress, Ellen Burstyn, poignantly said in an interview recently that “having an abortion” was the lowest moment of her life. (LifeSiteNews.com, September 20, 2007).
– Charles Francis, AM QC, is a retired Melbourne barrister and former Victorian state MP.