A Public Response to the Senate Inquiry into Abortion Access: Key Points and Statistics

Please note: this is not an actual submission to the Inquiry. Nonetheless, it does provide some relevant facts, statistics and observations that may help those seeking to make a submission.

Summary:

Because abortion is a procedure that violates a human’s right to life, it is crucial that women experiencing complicated or unplanned pregnancies are provided with real choices and support so that they do not feel pressured into having an abortion.

Abortion violates the right to life

The fact that abortion takes a human life should not be controversial. In fact, within the scientific community, it is not. There is a scientific consensus that human life begins at conception. [1] According to Merrian-Webster, an abortion is “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus”. [2] The Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand define termination of pregnancy as “the term used to describe deliberate ending of a pregnancy with the intention that the fetus will not survive”. [3]

Therefore, an abortion procedure results in the ending of a human life.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” [4] Moreover, human rights are understood to be universal and applicable to every human being, as the preamble of the UDHR makes explicit. [5]

Consequently, we can accurately state the following:

  1. Abortion ends the life of a human being. (This is a scientific fact.)
  2. All human beings have a right to life. (As acknowledged by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)
  3. Therefore, abortion violates a fundamental right to life.

Key Observations for the Senate Inquiry into Abortion Access

  • Women need to have information available to enable them to make the best decision for themselves and their babies, and women need to know that they are supported no matter the difficulty of their situation — they need to have the ability to pursue alternatives to abortion, like adoption.

If women are to have a real “choice” in this matter, they must have 1) awareness of the options available to them, and 2) the ability to choose them. Abortion is only one option, and as outlined above, it is an option that results in the violation of a human being’s right to life. Hence, women with difficult or unplanned pregnancies must be provided with all of the relevant information. They must be supported to pursue the avenue that is best for both themselves and their unborn child.

The fact that 44 per cent of late-term abortions (between 2010 and 2020) were conducted for psychosocial reasons (rather than for congenital abnormalities) suggests that women are not being provided with adequate support to enable them to make the choice to carry their child to term.[6]

  • The availability of adoption for women in complicated pregnancy situations needs to be considered.

At present, adoption is a long and costly process. According to Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, the median time for an intercountry adoption was 3 years and 4 months in 2020-2021. [7] However, the process can also be long and complicated within Australia as well. Just 334 adoptions were finalised in Australia in 2019-2020. [8] In contrast, an average of 448 late-term abortions per year were conducted in Queensland and Victoria alone over an eleven-year period (2010–2020). [9] While restrictions for the health and safety of the child are certainly necessary, the Inquiry should examine making adoption options easier as an alternative to abortion in Australia.

  • Pregnancy Crisis Centres (PCCs) need to be made fully available to women, including in regional and rural areas. Adequate funding and support should be provided to them to achieve this goal.

An underacknowledged support mechanism for women in difficult pregnancies is Pregnancy Crisis Centres, which ensure that women are affirmed, supported and provided with all the available options. The Inquiry should consider the accessibility of both adoption services and PCCs, particularly in remote and regional areas.

  • The right to equal care and support should be provided to babies born alive as the result of a termination of pregnancy.

Between 2010 and 2020, 724 children were born alive and left to die in late-term abortions in Queensland and Victoria. [10] At present, babies in this situation in Queensland and Victoria have no legal rights, including rights to life-saving medical treatment or palliative care. In fact, the Queensland Termination of Pregnancy Guidelines state the following: “… if live birth occurs… do not give life-sustaining treatment… document date and time end of life occurs.”[11] On 30 November 2022, a bill was introduced into the Senate that aims to give full legal protection to babies who are born alive following an abortion. [12]

  • Discrimination on the basis of gender or disability in abortion procedures should be prohibited. No baby should be terminated because of his or her gender or disability status.

Shockingly, in Australia, a survey commissioned by Down Syndrome Australia found that 9 in 10 unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome had their lives terminated. [13] Even more tragically, it found that “[n]early half of the parents surveyed felt pressure from health care providers to terminate their pregnancy.” [14] Similarly, a 2015 SBS investigation found “higher numbers of boys than girls being born in some ethnic communities” and a La Trobe report “found indications that prenatal sex selection is taking place in Victoria”, despite the fact that legislation in the state is supposed to stop the practice. [15] While abortion is fundamentally unjust — in that it ends the life of a human child — it is even more unconscionable that babies are being terminated because they are girls or because they have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. 

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Editorial Note: While we encourage you to reuse the facts and references provided within this article, please ensure that your submission is your own.

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References:

[1] “Overall, 95% of all biologists affirmed the biological view that a human’s life begins at fertilization (5212 out of 5502).”: Jacobs, Steven, “Biologists’ Consensus on ‘When Life Begins’”, (July 25, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3211703 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3211703, accessed 8 December 2022.
[2] “Abortion”, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abortion, accessed 8 December 2022. Cf. also, “Embryo”, defined as “the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception” (emphasis added) and “Fetus”, defined as “a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth” (emphasis added).
[3] Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand, Clinical Practice Guideline for Care Around Stillbirth   and Neonatal Death, Third Edition, March 2018, https://ranzcog.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Clinical-Practice-Guideline-for-Care-Around-Stillbirth-and-Neonatal-Death.pdf, p. 7, accessed 8 December 2022.
[4] Article 3, United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights, accessed 8 December 2022.
[5] Preamble: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”, and Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”, United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights, accessed 8 December 2022.
[6] 1677 out of 3776 late-term abortions conducted were for psychosocial reasons: Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paedatric Mortality and Morbidity, Victoria’s Mothers and Babies: Victoria’s Maternal, Perinatal, Child and Adolescent Mortality Annual Reports, 2010-2020.
[7] Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, “How does adoption work?”, 2022, https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/how-does-adoption-work#how-long, accessed 8 December 2022.
[8] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “Adoptions Australia 2019–20”, 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/adoptions/adoptions-australia-2019-20/summary, accessed 8 December 2022.
[9] Queensland Health, Queensland Government, Perinatal Annual Reports for 2010–2020, Table 10.13 (in each report); Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paedatric Mortality and Morbidity, Victoria’s Mothers and Babies: Victoria’s Maternal, Perinatal, Child and Adolescent Mortality Annual Reports, 2010-2020.
[10] Queensland Health, Queensland Government, Perinatal Annual Reports for 2010–2020, Table 10.13 (in each report); Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paedatric Mortality and Morbidity, Victoria’s Mothers and Babies: Victoria’s Maternal, Perinatal, Child and Adolescent Mortality Annual Reports, 2010-2020.
[11] Queensland Health, “Queensland Clinical Guidelines: Termination of Pregnancy” (2022)
[12] Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill 2022 (Cth)
[13] “We all have a lot to learn”: Prenatal screening for Down syndrome: A discussion paper, Down Syndrome Australia, 2021, https://www.downsyndrome.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/DSA_Prenatal-Screening-Experiences.pdf, p. 3, accessed 8 December 2022.
[14] “We all have a lot to learn”: Prenatal screening for Down syndrome: A discussion paper, Down Syndrome Australia, 2021, https://www.downsyndrome.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/DSA_Prenatal-Screening-Experiences.pdf, p. 4, accessed 8 December 2022; see also, ABC News, “Families feel pressured to terminate pregnancies after Down syndrome found in prenatal screening”, 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-08/pressure-mothers-feel-about-babies-with-down-syndrome/100521094
[15] SBS News, “Could gender-selective abortions be happening in Australia?”, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/could-gender-selective-abortions-be-happening-in-australia/titrb4ckz, accessed 8 December 2022; La Trobe University, “Gender bias leads to more male births”, 2018, https://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2018/release/gender-bias-leads-to-more-male-births, accessed 8 December 2022.

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