January 30th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Dyson report only partial answer to union problems

CANBERRA OBSERVED No urgency but Turnbull will want to make his mark

NATIONAL AFFAIRS SA pays price of solar and wind generation

FRENCH POLITICS AND ISLAM Kepel scathing of French elites, Salafists and far-right Islamophobes

ENVIRONMENT New bushfire tragedies: when will we ever learn?

RELIGION IN RUSSIA Betrayal: Curia no friend to Russian Catholics

HISTORY OF TAIWAN From pivot of Dutch trade to Japanese outpost

LIFE ISSUES Victoria enacts law based on lies told to Parliament

LIFE ISSUES Euthanasia: a false start to end-of-life issues

ETHICS Book traces foundations of true civilisation

RELIGION AND SOCIETY A welcome in truth for the same-sex attracted

CINEMA The beauty beyond fear: The Good Dinosaur

BOOK REVIEW Secularism mars insights

BOOK REVIEW A novel for the remnant


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Victoria enacts law based on lies told to Parliament

by John Young

News Weekly, January 30, 2016

The Victorian Parliament has made acts of charity criminal acts. Last November a big majority in both the lower and upper houses voted effectively to end the ability of pro-lifers to offer help to women entering abortion facilities.

The Orwellian entitled bill, the Public Health (Safe Access) Amendment Bill, creates 150-metre zones around facilities that provide abortions, making it unlawful to engage in acts within the zones that may cause anxiety or distress to women entering the premises.

Proponents of the bill presented false charges against the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants (a group that prays and offers help outside abortion facilities), claiming they harass and intimidate women. In reality the Helpers pray for the mothers and babies, while one or two experienced life advocates offer help to the mothers entering the premises, speaking quietly and compassionately to them.

The principal venue in Melbourne where the alleged harassment is supposed to happen is the Fertility Control Clinic in Wellington Parade.

I don’t go regularly, but over the years I have been there many times, and have never witnessed any harassment or intimidation. If such behaviour occurred (and the people making the charges allege it has been the norm for over 20 years) there would have been many court convictions. In fact there have been none. That is despite the fact that a security guard is on duty at the gate during the period the Helpers are present, and some of the guards – as well as facility staff and hostile members of the public – are very ready to call the police for no justifiable reason.

In the parliamentary debates the Helpers were maligned, being accused of behaviour they never indulge in, and without evidence being produced to support the charges.

The trend to taking offence

Not only that. This new law follows a disturbing trend: the trend to criminalise actions if individuals find them offensive, instead of judging the acts objectively. That is the position Archbishop Julian Porteous and the other Australian Bishops are in regarding their pastoral letter on marriage.

The letter is very moderate, explaining the view of marriage almost universally accepted for thousands of years, and speaking sympathetically of people with homosexual inclinations, while seeing homosexual activity as wrong. Now the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission has found the Bishops have a case to answer on the grounds that some people are offended.

Regarding the people who pray and offer help outside abortion facilities, no case was made that their behaviour is objectively wrong. Instead the decision was based on false charges, and the law is worded in a way that makes the subjective judgement of individuals the criterion to be used in deciding whether actions are criminal.

The Helpers have placards and leaflets giving facts about abortion; they offer assistance to the women; they pray. Surely these activities are reasonable if abortion is the killing of a baby, with serious psychological consequences for the mothers in the years ahead. But abortion is the killing of a baby, and serious psychological consequences are clearly documented.

In the course of the last 20 years it is estimated by the Helpers that some 300 babies have been saved at the Wellington Parade facility. Encouragement by the Helpers, together with many forms of support, is offered to mothers who don’t really want to have an abortion but who feel forced into that decision by circumstances. Many mothers and fathers have expressed their gratitude, but the parliamentarians who voted for the bill were not swayed by that.

Abortion kills a baby, with tragic lifelong consequences for the mother. In many cases the tragedy could be averted if the parents were given the facts and necessary support. This draconian law will lead to more babies being killed and more mothers (and fathers) being subject to remorse as the truth of what they have done sinks in.

Despite the strong opposition, some parliamentarians stood up for the truth, and they deserve our thanks. In the lower house they are Neil Angus, Richard Riordan, Gary Blackwood, David Southwick, Tim Bull, Murray Thompson, Robert Clark, Bill Tilley, Martin Dixon, Nick Wakeling, Michael Gidley, Graham Watt and David Hodgett. In the upper house they are Richard Dalla-Riva, Inga Peulich, Bernie Finn, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, Jeff Bourman, Gordon Rich-Phillips, Daniel Young and James Purcell.

The bill was put forward by the Labor Party, with its members denied a free vote.

This latest infringement of freedom is a consequence of the law in 2008 that made abortion on demand legal in Victoria, right up to birth. Even a partially born baby can be legally killed under that law, provided the abortion is authorised by two doctors.

It is no surprise, then, that politicians who approve of that should have taken this further step of enacting the Public Health (Safe Access) Amendment Bill. The next thing we can expect is a more determined push to make abortion on demand the law throughout Australia, followed by restrictions on the right of pro-lifers to help the parents and babies.

John Young is an Australian philosopher who lives in Melbourne.

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