ABORTION: by Terri M. KelleherNews Weekly
Women deprived of independent counselling
, September 17, 2011
In late August, Australia and overseas newspapers reported that a 23-week unborn baby had died and that the baby’s 40-year-old mother was in a critical condition in a Melbourne hospital following a late-term abortion.
The mother was said to have suffered organ failure. Her present condition is unknown as there have been no further reports. The Victorian Minister for Health David Davis has said that the matter is being investigated, but that he does not wish to disclose specific details of the case for reasons of confidentiality.
The Marie Stopes Maroondah abortion clinic, formerly the Croydon Day Surgery, located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, confirmed that a patient from the facility was transferred to Box Hill Hospital on August 18. The Croydon Day Surgery was previously in the news after anaesthetist James Latham Peters, 61, was charged last May with 54 counts of endangering the lives of patients who became infected with Hepatitis C after they had undergone abortions at the clinic.
Chief executive officer of Marie Stopes International Australia, Maria Deveson Crabbe, is reported to have said that at this stage there is no evidence that the patient’s transfer or medical condition was due to any treatment she received at the clinic. She said that her company has launched its own internal investigation.
The owner and doctor at the clinic, Dr Michael Schulberg, is reported to have told ABC television’s Lateline program that the patient had a previous serious existing condition and the abortion did nothing to exacerbate her present health problems.
This raises some important questions: If she had a pre-existing serious medical condition, did her own doctor who knew of her condition refer her for the abortion? Why would she have been referred to an abortion clinic rather than to a fully equipped hospital where there were facilities to deal with her condition? If the abortion clinic was unaware of her pre-existing, serious condition, why was it not aware? Wasn’t her medical history checked?
Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper reported that it understood that the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) had questioned staff involved in the procedure and that it is believed the MBA has previously criticised one of the doctors involved. It was reported that a senior doctor, who treated the woman after she was rushed to hospital, reported the incident to the MBA.
What has to be remembered in all this is that abortion is an elective procedure. Therefore it would be expected that the patient would be advised of all known risks before consenting to it. Would the woman in the case described have freely chosen to undergo the abortion if she had thought that she might suffer organ failure?
Proponents of abortion say it is all about a woman’s choice. But are they concerned whether it is a free choice? Only a fully informed choice is a free choice.
When Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act was passed in 2008, amendments to require full information on all the health risks and support counselling for women were voted down in parliament. It seems that a real choice, a fully informed choice, is not what abortion campaigners want for women.
A major in-depth study of 1,200 Australians in 2005 reported that 98 per cent of Australians want information on the health risks to be provided to women seeking abortions; 99 per cent want access to counselling; and 86 per cent want information and counselling to come from a source independent of the abortion-provider. The same study showed that 87 per cent of Australians polled want to reduce the number of abortions, and 94 per cent want a woman to be given the opportunity to seriously consider alternatives before deciding whether to have an abortion.
This is what the overwhelming majority of Australians want, yet the Victorian parliament voted down amendments that would have addressed those very concerns.
Abortion proponents in particular have been actively working against the provision of independent counselling for women. Pro-Choice Victoria and Children by Choice direct women with unplanned pregnancies to visit the website of the Australian Greens to find abortion counselling services.
What they find is effectively the black-listing of any abortion or pregnancy advice services except those recommended by abortion-providers. This can scarcely be deemed independent and disinterested counselling.
Lack of support for women with unplanned pregnancies is a common experience overseas, especially in the United States. Abby Johnson ran an abortion clinic in Texas for eight years. Eventually she realised that the business was all about getting those abortions, the numbers of which translated into dollars, not about helping women who came to the clinic. (See Steven Mosher’s review of her recent book UnPlanned in News Weekly, February 19, 2011).
In the film Bloodmoney: The Business of Abortion, a documentary that exposes the profit-driven politics of the U.S. abortion industry, a former co-owner of an abortion clinic admitted the same thing. A number of women who had undergone abortions were interviewed for the documentary. They spoke about how they felt they had no choice. They described their vulnerable emotional state and how those they needed to rely upon — the boyfriend, the sister or mother or family or friend — often pressured them into the abortion as the best thing to do.
If these women had known where to turn for a breathing-space to consider other options, their decision would have been a real choice. As it was, they were offered no other choice than abortion.
Terri M. Kelleher is Victorian president of the Australian Family Association.