Friday, 22 November 2013

A day of contradictions

I got home from work today for the last five overs of the cricket. Whilst trying to nurse my little man to sleep, National 9 News followed. Within the first seven minutes was a story on the first day of The Ashes; Newsworthy, but could have waited for the sports section; and a story about some hippo that had babies at Melbourne Zoo; congratulations, but seriously, in the first seven minutes of the 'National' news? Interestingly, I didn't see any mention of the real (and massive) news from New South Wales and Tasmania today. 

From New South Wales; the Lower House of State Parliament voted 63-26 in favour of "Zoe's Law". Zoe's Law is a bill that proposes to give legal rights to a foetus over 20 weeks old. 

From Tasmania; the Upper House voted 9-5 to ensure that the State became the third in Australia to decriminalise abortion. 

Is it just me or is there a glaringly obvious contradiction here? If it's not a contradiction, it's a moral dilemma at the very least. 

In one state, our politicians are saying an unborn baby over 20 weeks is just that; an unborn baby. Zoe's Law seeks to define a 20-week-old foetus as a living person, so that charges of grievous bodily harm can be laid if a pregnant woman loses her unborn child in a motor vehicle accident or assault. The law recognises grievous bodily harm to the mother, with a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail, if her foetus dies in these circumstances.

In three other states, our politicians are saying it is lawful to terminate a baby up to term. Like Victoria's draconian laws in which abortion is accessible up to 24 weeks gestational age without referral, or anytime up to birth with the signature of two doctors, Tasmania now allows abortion without referral up to 16 weeks or up to term with two doctors' signatures.

So the logical question stands out like the proverbial elephant in the room. If one state believes a foetus after 20 weeks is in fact a human being, what has Tasmania just legalised? 

I applaud the New South Wales Parliament for their stance on Zoe's Law even though I find the cut off date of 20 weeks problematic. For example, what happens to a baby that is 19 weeks and 6 days old? Are we saying it is ok to terminate this "foetus" even though it may be a matter of minutes from becoming a human? Why 20 weeks? Why not 24 or 4? Or from conception?

Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich argues that a foetus is not a human until it is born due to the fact it is completely dependant on it's mothers' body. How does a baby survive outside the womb without it's mother? My three and a half month old son would wither away if it wasn't for the care and nurturing my wife and I give him. 

Women can receive the baby bonus and maternity leave prior to the birth of their child. If an unborn baby is not a human, why can mothers receive parental benefits prior to birth? Women also receive a stillbirth certificate if they lose their baby during pregnancy and can hold funeral services that are recognized. Isn't it ironic that this is the case if the baby they lost was not actually recognized as a human? Based on this, I find Greenwich's argument highly flawed. 

However you view it, Australia has a huge problem when three states say abortion is fine and lawful up to term, while another state says an unborn baby over 20 weeks is a human being. It reminds me of what I call the contradiction of desire. If a mother and father want a child and that child is gravely ill at say 22 weeks, doctors will do everything they can to save that "baby". However if the "foetus" is not wanted at 22 weeks, we quite simply terminate. 

The baby in this clip was born three and a half months premature and have a look at how he turned out (this video just about took me back to my wedding day when I blubbered my way through the entire vows!). 

We are not talking about negligible interpretations of law here, or the difference between Person A's understanding of the law to that of Person B's. This is quite clearly a matter of life and death, according to Tasmania and New South Wales anyway.

Surely our politicians must be asking themselves whether terminating a "foetus" anywhere up to term, for any apparent reason, was the real policy intent when abortion laws were first tabled. It sure has been a slippery slope.

All the best,
Dom Meese

*Photo courtesy of al shep on Flickr

1 comment:

  1. The politicians who passed the Tasmanian law say they "value life" yet the amendment, to prevent abortion post 20 weeks unless there are severe medical problems, was rejected. There is now abortion on demand until birth in Tasmania and Victoria.
    In these states, Neo-Natal-Intensive-Care-Unit are desperately trying to save the lives of babies born as early as 22 weeks gestation while in the ward across the hall we are disposing of babies at 38 weeks gestation.
    I suppose this isn't surprising in a culture steeped in consumerism. If you want, it keep it. If you don't want it or it is defective, throw it away.