Monday, October 06, 2008

604 - a serious post

The abortion reform legislation goes before the (Victorian State) Upper House this week and The Age continues to run it’s series of uncritical, clearly anti-abortion, “human story” style pieces that have been peppering the paper for the last couple of months.

The latest is all about little Thomas who was born at 26 weeks (a full 3.5 months early). Now six years old there’s a picture with his loving mother with the caption, “Thomas Sharples and his mother Deborah, who is disgusted by the idea of a 24-week termination”. With Deborah’s willing consent Thomas’s story has been part of the case delivered by Labour MP Marlene Kairouz against the Bill.

The story, no doubt supplied by the anti-choice lobby, is lazy and uncritical in its reporting of the facts. What was the cost of Thomas’s 3.5 months of post-natal hospitalization, much of it in NICU and ongoing special care? Not a mention. Has Thomas suffered for being kept alive ‘against all the odds’? The story glosses over his deafness and makes no other mention of the physical problems.

Thomas’s story does not address the issues of the Bill or the fact it is looking at abortion up to 24 weeks. At that stage of prematurity each day makes a substantive difference to likelihood of survival. While the medical advances in the past decade are increasing the odds for those born at 26-plus weeks gestation, there have been no significant changes for survival of 23 week old fetuses, which stays hovering at around 20%. It would be rare for the 1:5 who do survive to do so without blindness, deafness, brain damage, digestive problems, sleep apnea, heart irregularities and an inability to be fed naturally.

While I love a good survivor story and am not an eugenicist, the sloppy reporting does little to tell the whole story.

Catholic, and some other chrisitan, doctors or medical personal believe it is against their individual human rights to perform a termination on a woman who’s own life may be at stake if she continues the pregnancy. A strange lack of compassion in anyone’s book to choose a fetus that may have little chance of survival, over a functioning adult.

The Age continues to fail to bring it’s stories on this legislation back to the point which is to allow safe, legal access to abortions up to 24 weeks' gestation and remove unlawful abortion from the Crimes Act. While a small percentage of women may choose to go through an induced labour at 23 weeks for lifestyle reasons, the vast majority who seek a termination at this time is in response to the devastating news that their much wanted baby, if it was to survive birth, would have major brain or internal organ damage. I’ve met no woman who has been confronted with this to take the decision to terminate lightly. Nor has a single one of them forgotten what it was like to labour in vain and hold their child until it dies.

For those of us who support the final passing of this legislation, all we ask is that when for whatever reason, a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy of up to 24 weeks, that it can be done so legally and safely. In short, that no woman die or be damaged from the consequences of an out of hospital abortion, or that she or the medical personal go to prison for pursuing an abortion up to 24 weeks.

What is so wrong with that?

"A number of people have asked me, 'Who speaks for the baby?' The answer, I believe, is that the mother speaks for the baby, and we need to respect that right, whether we agree or disagree with the decision they make."
Jeanette Powell, Victorian Nationals front bencher, speech to the Lower House. The Australian

Cross-posted at Deliberately Barren

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Anonymous Renee said...

The idea that any woman would make a choice to have an abortion without serious thought is ridiculous. It insults the humanity and intelligence of all women. It is our bodies that are carrying the child and our lives that will be effected by this serious life changing decision.

7:46 am  
Blogger Melba said...


that stupid thomas story was so off the topic. as if any fucking person is saying there's a parallel between a prem baby (much wanted, we all support that and cheer when a kid survives a difficult start in life) and a situation where the mother for WHATEVER REASON, (and at that late stage, surely it's not contraceptive???) needs or chooses termination.

it's never going to be an easy decision. while i am against abortion as contraception (but would not deny it to anyone even for those reasons, i believe it is the individual's choice) this legislation has to be passed, and that quote re: the mother thinking about the best interests of the child is spot on.

sorry for swearing. i am roused to emotional lashings-out around this subject.


11:41 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Renee - welcome!

...and carrying on along from both the comments. Absolutely. No woman more than halfway through a pregnancy terminates without thinking, for flippant reasons. It is a bloody, painful process unlike an early term D&C (which is bad enough to go through as it is). Something that most protesters don't fully comprehend.

Melba - I'd read the Thomas story on line and wrote the post, then later saw the photo was blown up on the front page. What is the Age playing at? What is the catholic connection with fairfax?

2:29 pm  
Blogger Ann O'Dyne said...

the entire issue of Issue Law, is SO irritating.

The mother speaks for the future of the child, and very frequently, her voice is shaped by the
father-of-the-child's interest or lack of it.

I don't buy The Age.

12:32 am  
Blogger Melba said...

AOF, i don't think it's necessarily a catholic connection with the age, it's probably more a case of simple conservatism and general religiosity which seems to be increasing - look at politics these days. we are turning into america. god help us all.

also i feel they are trying to manipulate us, using emotion and incredibly simplistic, or even furphy-type practices. i only read the age cause there's nothing else in print daily. it's better than the australian, and as for the herald-sun.


9:43 am  

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