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Barnett’s motion, new doses of hope?

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.

Barnett’s motion, new doses of hope?
by Sandra Ortiz

“I intend to reintroduce my motion to disallow Medicare funding following the report of the Senate Committee”. These words said by Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Guy Barnett, this week in the Sydney Morning Herald, were rapidly spread all over the web.

The actual effect of this motion, according to Barnett, in his Briefing Paper, would be that ‘if it is successful, it will be to immediately stop taxpayer funding of second trimester and late term abortions through Medicare’, removing or reforming the item nº 16525 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

Although the existing laws in Australian states, except for the ACT, criminalized the voluntary termination of pregnancy, they consider it legal in the first and second trimester, if it has the consent of the woman and is done by qualified doctors to save women’s life, preserve their physical and mental health or protect their economic and social factors.

This is why; in such cases, Medicare has financed about $1.7 million since 1994, in order to achieve 10,000 second trimester and late term abortions.

What is even more outrageous about it is the fact that babies at 14 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, can actually survive outside the womb and live, and we have Samuel’s spinal bifida surgery in his mother’s uterus as the best example.

On the other hand, according to Julian Savulescu, a bioethicist who is currently the Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford agrees with the fact that abortion is wrong to be practiced and other types of birth control should be promoted.

However, as it is an international reality and thousands of women have died due to their complicated pregnancy situations, to him, the only right way to reform the law on abortion is by assuming a completely liberal method without punishing any doctor or woman.

What is really the difference between a 1 week old and a 26 weeks old prenatal baby? Why do people blow their minds by trying to define abortion as a health or criminal issue if at the end an innocent person is being killed either way? Why is it more important to safe women’s life instead of the children’s one?

The Australian Women’s Health Network explain us on their response that this is a cruel motion against women with wanted pregnancies, if they found at their second trimester that their pregnancy won’t probably succeed or that their babies will not survive.

Because, despite medical advances, the probabilities of any complication during this period still remain.

So, as abortion has been, is and might still be a controversial and difficult matter for most authorities around the world, it is a reality that women, doctors and societies have to deal with.

It is comprehensible that people are afraid of a possible growth of trivial abortions, if there are no punishments. But prohibiting abortions has not solved the problem yet, and decriminalizing them has not increased it either.

For instance, abortion in Peru is illegal unless it is needed to preserve the physical health of women, and we are listed as the second country in Latin America with the highest rate of abortions.

I think the best option, would be to seek consensus. Respecting both rights to life, the woman and the child.

If women’s physical life is in danger, supported by qualified doctors, their right to live enables them to be treated in specialized institutions with the necessary medical procedures, including Medicare.

However, any other reason to terminate a child’s life should be enough to penalize the woman, and the doctor who supported that cause.

Reproductive and women’s health institutions, pro-life and pro-choice supporters¸ authorities, parents, teachers, and any human being have the duty to inform their dependants about sexual health and responsible sexual behavior.

Thus, we can be aware of the possible consequences, before acting, in order to decrease abortions. But especially to terminate with the worst excuses to kill an innocent: ‘I don’t have enough money, I am too young to be a mother, I would be kicked out of my house’, among others.

It takes two to tango and as reducing the number of abortions in the world is a long and delicate process, it is our responsibility to at least encourage and demand necessary and timely information for both women and men.

To sum up, it is for sure that it would be almost impossible to end up with pregnancy terminations, but at least it should not be taking away more lives (7) than AIDS and wars as it’s been happening so far in 2008.


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I am not sure

Sandra, I am not exactly sure what you see as the main issue here. You have peppered the piece with what seems to me to be personal judgments about abortion, but then you appear to contradict those to some extent.

I think the piece lacks objective and the argument to me either in favour or against abortion is not clearly put. I think it is a good idea in any piece to decide first what your actual aim is, then structure you argument to meet that and make sure you conclusion sums that up.

To be honest your conclusion to me just does not make sense.

Abortion as you clearly know is a very contentious issue, particularly in predominantly Catholic populations where contraception is against the teachings of the church.

But putting religion aside, it also raises broader ethical issues, especially third trimester abortions.

A lot of women who had abortions in their youth later come to have all sorts of psychological problems and regrets, so it is not something to be countenanced without proper counselling.

A very controversial issue so full marks to you for having tackling it.

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