By Claire van Ryn of Emily’s Voice.
On Monday night, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared on ABC’s Q&A to tackle a battery of curly questions ahead of the Australian federal election on July 2.
There was one particular question that piqued our interest and we’re grateful to Ashley Leong in the studio audience who had the gumption to do the asking. This was her question to the PM:
“Twenty-seven babies aged five-months gestation or more survived late-term abortions in Queensland hospitals last year; the highest number of survivals following attempted terminations in 10 years. But each of these 27 babies were not rendered care and allowed to die. As a medical student who has seen many deliveries and loving care of premature babies, nothing is quite so horrifying as letting a baby perish in a clinic. Is it not the federal government’s onus to protect all citizens, especially those who cannot speak for themselves?”
After a moment’s pause, Mr Turnbull asked Ashley to explain the circumstances in more detail. It was abundantly clear that our PM had absolutely no idea that last week, in Queensland parliament, Minister for Health Cameron Dick revealed that 27 Queensland babies were born alive last year after late term abortions, and then allowed to die.
We were not surprised. Not in the slightest. Because the Australian media has failed dismally in allowing this shocking yet vital piece of information to be dispersed to the public. This is the pick-and-choose media we have in Australia – that is failing women, the unborn and broader society.
And here is how Mr Turnbull responded:
“This is very much an area within the jurisdiction of the state government and I’m not passing the buck but that’s the fact. I’m not familiar with the precise terms of the law in Queensland relating to abortion – late term or otherwise – but it’s very much a matter within the jurisdiction of the Queensland parliament.”
The question barely filled two minutes of program time and Ashley must have been disappointed with the answer. His reticence to engage with the topic, one framed by an articulate and well-informed medical student no less, was saddening considering the huge impact abortion has on the Australian population. Women and the unborn, of course, but also fathers, GPs, nurses and midwives, doctors and abortionists, not to mention extended family. Considering the statistic that one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, it’s safe to say that abortion affects everyone.
In a story for The Guardian today, Carol Portmann, a maternal foetal medicine specialist who formerly worked at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital, said 27 live births last year seemed, “unusually high, given the number of terminations of pregnancy in the hospital setting would not have increased significantly in the past few years”.
She attributed the live births to the use of Mifepristone by hospitals, leading to shorter labour times and more babies born with heartbeats. While she maintained that the outcome would have been no different if help had been administered to these babies, she admitted that in cases where a baby is born alive following an abortion, “the baby is provided with whatever is needed to allow them to pass away without distress or pain”.
I’m sorry, Mr Turnbull, but these revelations are more than a little bit alarming and need more attention than you offered on Q&A the other night. If you are truly concerned with the population of Australia – let’s start by not discriminating by age.
When Ashley asked you that question, Mr Turnbull, we were hoping you would face it with the compassion and truth we know you’re capable of. We were hoping you would say something like this:
“Abortions are federally funded, therefore I’m willing to see that these cases are investigated…”
“I’m concerned that those 27 babies were left to die…”
“Our laws are ambiguous and outdated, and they definitely need scrutiny…”
“We need to help mothers, babies and medical staff…”
Perhaps you’ll be better prepared next time an articulate young medical student asks you a question about the realities of life and death in the maternity ward.