Friday, 19 December 2008

Hansard 2008-10-09 Abortion Bill 2008

Mr Peter Kavanagh DLP MLC for Western Victoria Region took a leading role in the Legislative Council in opposing the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 to decriminalise abortion and he received a thunderous standing ovation from the public gallery unprecedented in the recent history of the Victorian Parliament at the conclusion of his exceptional speech opposing abortion which took approximately three hours. The President of the House complimented Mr. Kavanagh on the amount of effort he put into the speech.

The Abortion Bill 2008 allows abortions up to 24 weeks for any reason and for no reason. Beyond 24 weeks, two abortionists merely need to say that an abortion is “appropriate”.
This legislation further requires doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion to nevertheless refer pregnant women to other doctors who are “known not to have a conscientious objection” and even to perform abortions in some circumstances.

A majority of MPs, including Members from every political party (except the DLP) supported this legislation. A majority of Upper House MPs also voted against amendments which Mr Kavanagh proposed in Parliament, to:
1. Ban partial birth abortion - the killing of babies as they are being born (illegal throughout the USA),
2. Require pain relief for babies being aborted (there is overwhelming evidence that abortion is excruciatingly painful), and
3. Require abortionists to care for babies born alive after “failed” abortions.
Mr Kavanagh supported other amendments proposed by other Members such as allowing conscientious objection for medical practitioners though none of these amendments gained majority support.

Mr Kavanagh is disturbed that Victorian MPs supported the killing of the unborn and the partially born, opposed assistance to those born alive after unsuccessful abortions and even voted against pain relief.

Below is the last part of Mr Kavanagh’s speech in Parliament on Hansard during the second reading. The bill was later passed unamended at the third reading after all amendments failed during the committee phase of the debate.

The full text of Mr Kavanagh’s speech in Parliament on Hansard during the second reading and committee phases of the debate before its passage at the third reading can be found by entering the relevant search criteria at:

Activity: Second Reading
Date: 9 October 2008 P
age: 4093



Debate resumed.

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria)

Page 4116


…We might consider the point of conscientious objection or the removal of conscientious objection rights with an analogy. Imagine, for example, that we lived in one of the states of the United States in which there is legal execution of prisoners. We might consider what our reaction would be in the event of a person being asked by a state official, a doctor, to participate in the execution of a convicted felon. I think we would all be horrified. The situation is indeed analogous, except for one thing: it is much worse in Victoria, because we know the victim will be entirely innocent. There is nobody more innocent than an unborn person. In the

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state in America where that might happen the victim would have to be convicted first of a very serious offence of taking other people's lives. This situation in Victoria is much worse than the one I suggest might be analogous in the United States, and it applies not only to physicians and medical practitioners but also to nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals.

This bill would allow even partial-birth abortions, a gruesome form of homicide that is illegal throughout the United States. The constitutionality of this law in America has recently been upheld in the United States Supreme Court, in spite of a general prohibition on laws against abortion, as determined in the infamous case of Roe v. Wade.

Partial-birth abortions are committed late in a pregnancy. They involve almost removing the baby from the mother with forceps, feet first.

It is done this way, feet first, because if the baby were to be born in the normal way, head first, she would be born too quickly to kill her before she was fully born. While her head is still in the birth canal an instrument is inserted into her brain through her upper neck and her brains are vacuumed out through the incision. The baby is then fully removed from the mother's body, dead. Such a procedure, it has been declared by the United States Congress, is never medically necessary, but it is already being carried out in Victoria. Passage of this bill would increase the frequency of this practice and lend to it the authority of the state of Victoria.

This bill offers no protection to the woman or the unborn. There is no cooling-off period, no counselling, no warnings of the harm that is done, not only to the unborn, but often to the women as well and also to the babies they have later, after the abortion. There is no provision for pain relief for the unborn, though there is evidence that many of the unborn feel the pain of an abortion to an extent that we cannot understand because they develop the ability to feel pain before birth but do not develop the capacity to express pain until after birth.

There is no restriction in this bill on sex selection abortions, which the United Nations says, together with infanticide, have recently killed 60 million unborn girls because they were female. Most of them have been in East Asia and far eastern parts of Europe. However, it is also already happening in parts of the United States, and we can be confident that it is also happening in Australia, including in Victoria.

I would like to propose some alternatives to the present bill. In present circumstances a program of effectively implemented criminal sanctions against abortion would indeed face formidable obstacles.

These include parts of the profits of the lucrative abortion industry which are being directed into political donations for the purpose of freeing its practitioners of restraints. Such obstacles would also include, above all, the profoundly misguided but vehement denials of the humanity of the unborn, contrary to all scientific evidence, and a belief by many that a right to life of the unborn is a matter of choice by others, even though the exercise of such a choice takes away every choice from somebody else.

Nevertheless, there are actions which the government can and should take to address this problem. The first is to retain in-principle legal protection for all people, including the unborn. Although by no means sufficient, it is necessary. Instituting a program of counselling and intervention by state agencies and support for non-government organisations would help women who need it to allow their children to stay alive. It would also be a very appropriate response to the problem.

We should consider clearly informing all women considering abortion of the option of open adoption, which exists in Victoria. This would allow them to give birth to their baby and allow other people to care for their baby most of the time, but also enable them to retain a relationship with that baby for the rest of their life. This is an attractive option that women who are considering an abortion should be told about.

Furthermore, we should consider a public education program which demonstrates the humanity of the unborn and which adequately warns of the dangers of abortion to women. A public education campaign that makes it clear that the unborn are human beings is also a necessary response to the present situation.

If you go into a government office in Victoria you will see posters about such campaigns for lots of people, such as the campaign asking us to see the person, not the disability. Why not have such a campaign for the unborn also?

It would not require criminal prosecutions or putting people in jail, but it would be likely to have an effect. If such programs have no effect, why do we have the programs that exist already for other people?

Young women who have nowhere to go should be offered accommodation and help. We have programs already for women who are victims of domestic violence. Why not provide a similar sort of help for women who are in search of the help needed for them to keep their baby instead of aborting their baby? We should also ban partial-birth abortion. In respect of this particular bill proponents might well claim that the situation is now so bad from the unborn's

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point of view. They might ask: what is the point of opposing the legalisation of abortion? It is a reasonable question to which there are several answers. Firstly, passage of this bill will cause even more unborn people to be aborted. I hope Mr Hall, in particular, pays attention to these points, because he claimed that he was voting for the bill on the basis that it will not cause more abortions.

Existing laws, though frequently flouted, provide a last line of defence for those women attempting to resist pressure from their mothers, husbands, boyfriends or others to have an abortion. Our current laws allow such women the powerful defence of correctly asserting that abortion is illegal.

The VLRC was charged with recommending decriminalisation in a way that would not increase the number of abortions in Victoria.

Its greatest failure is in recommending three options, all of which would remove the prohibition on abortion inherent in our current in-principle legal support for the unborn while doing nothing whatever to replace that deterrent effect of the authority of the letter of the law with anything else at all. Any attempt at balance aimed at not increasing the number of abortions in Victoria would surely include measures such as cooling-off periods, counselling and at least a prohibition on partial-birth abortion. Where are such balancing measures in the VLRC recommendations? They do not exist in those recommendations or in the bill that is before us.

The VLRC was asked to recommend laws consistent with public opinion. Public opinion overwhelmingly wants fewer abortions. What provision in this bill will mean fewer abortions?

Mr Drum -- None.

Mr KAVANAGH -- No provision whatsoever. This bill will encourage more abortions.

Interjections from gallery.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mrs Peulich) -- Order! There will be no interjections from the gallery. It is disorderly.

Mr KAVANAGH -- This really is extremist legislation. By any standard, by any measure, this is extremist legislation. I understand these provisions abolishing the right to conscientious objection appear almost nowhere else in what we might call the Western world. There were claims that such provisions abolishing the right to conscientious objection exist in Britain; however, research has indicated that that is not the case. In Britain there is actually a legislative right to conscientious objection.

We have legislation explicitly taking away the right to conscientious objection in Victoria, and of course it is the bill before us.

The law does more than simply put people in jail or fine them. The law expresses principles, and those principles are important. One of the reasons they are important is that they have a deterrent effect, independent of legal punishments. Removing those legal principles, even if not supported by criminal consequences, will lead to more abortions than would otherwise happen.

It would be difficult to construct a plausible argument that support for this bill will not entail personal responsibility for the extra abortions that would result from its passage. Some members have suggested that legalisation allows regulation. There is nothing in the retention of the in-principle restrictions on abortion which exist under our present law that prevents effective regulation. This bill would legalise abortion for any reason or for no reason. It does not even seek to regulate abortion, only to facilitate abortion.

What effective regulation of abortion would follow if this bill is passed? Members know that the honest answer is none. Furthermore, retaining the in-principle support for the unborn under our existing law would not preclude effective regulation in any way, if that were desired by the Parliament. On the other hand, abandoning even in-principle protection for the unborn would make effective regulation even less likely. Other examples, such as the growth of the commercial sex industry, which has boomed in size since legalisation of prostitution in Victoria, also demonstrate that the claim that legalisation means effective regulation is false. Ms Pulford said that the bill would not increase the number of unplanned pregnancies. I agree with that; it will not increase the number of pregnancies, it will only increase the number of pregnancies that end in abortion.

They are two quite different things
The bill offers no protection to the woman or to the unborn person. There is no cooling-off period, no counselling, no warnings of the great harm that is done not only to the baby but to the woman as well. There is no provision for pain relief and no restriction on sex selection abortion.

Over approximately the last 40 years, since the late 1960s when prosecutions for abortions virtually ceased, there have been close to 4 million abortions carried out in Australia, most with the financial support of the taxpayer, willing or unwilling. As a teacher I often looked at empty chairs in classrooms, and I looked out

Page 4119

over quiet corners of schoolyards, and I wondered how different Australia would be if not for this epidemic of abortion over the last 40 years.

The oldest of those who were aborted at the beginning of this process, about 40 years ago, would now be becoming grandparents for the first time. Their grandchildren, of course, do not exist and never will, nor will their children or any other descendants. In the film Gladiator the main character, Maximus, says, 'What we do in life echoes in eternity'. What echo will each one of us leave? Will it be life reverberating through the ages or will we vote for painful death wantonly inflicted on the youngest and the most vulnerable, bequeathing an echo of death, a legacy of silence resounding long after every one of us is dead? It is ironic that this bill proposes to remove from the Crimes Act and put into the Health Act the facilitation of abortion.

It is ironic because abortion is not consistent with health; abortion is destructive of health. Removing abortion from the Crimes Act is something that many members have already spoken about in an emotional way; they have said it is terrible that women have been subject to the Crimes Act. First of all there is no realistic risk of prosecution, and there has not been for four decades.

The passage of this bill, however, will make criminals of doctors who know as a matter of medical fact that the unborn are human beings. It would also make it a criminal offence for a doctor in some circumstances to refuse to refer his patient whom he believes will be harmed by a referral to an abortionist. Technically it will be an offence under this act not to send a woman to an abortionist even when the doctor knows that in his professional medical opinion it will harm the woman. That is, it makes it an offence for a doctor to exercise his medical judgement in the interest of his patient.

What advantages could this bill have? It seeks to advance medicine, but in my view medicine is about saving people's lives, extending their lives, improving their health. Simply because something is done in a clinical environment does not make it medical any more than is the execution of prisoners in the United States, which involves medical personnel and doctors checking that the executed person is dead. That is not a medical procedure, nor is taking the life of an unborn child. It does not make it medical to stab someone just because you use a scalpel rather than a switchblade.

What advantage would passage of this bill bring? No doubt some members will continue to talk, as some already have, about backyard abortion and its consequences, but that is certainly not what this debate is about. The alternative to the passage of this bill is not a return to backyard abortions and a regime of criminal prosecutions.

The alternative to passage of this bill is the retention of in-principle legal protection for all people, including the unborn. It is a principle, as I said, which was hard won but could be easily destroyed. It is a principle that protects us all and which we abolish or diminish at the peril of every single Victorian.

The bill's proponents will see vindication if this bill becomes law. There may even be champagne and strawberries on the steps of this Parliament to celebrate that apparent vindication. Such a celebration, however, would be based on false assumptions. The passage of this bill will not mean that abortion is right, justified or properly legal. If this bill is passed, it will simply mean that a majority of members of this Parliament are profoundly misguided about abortion. The passage of this bill will not end the debate in Victoria about abortion any more than the case of Roe v. Wade ended the debate in the United States, which is much hotter than the debate in Australia.

There will be no final solution to the question of abortion even if this bill is passed. The government has proclaimed that this is a conscience vote for all ALP members. If that is true, then its members will vote according to the merits or otherwise of this bill. Members of Parliament from all sides share at least one characteristic -- ambition. Ambition is not a bad thing at all when it spurs us on to do our best. Supporting the removal of in-principle legal protection for any category of person, however, cannot be best -- not for the particular victims, the baby and the mother, not the best for our society generally and not for any member supporting such a measure.

Some members have already declared they will support this bill. I ask such members to change their minds.

I know it is a difficult thing to do once you have stated in public that you will vote one way, but I ask them to consider the evidence again, to maybe look at it with fresh eyes and not be prejudiced by the fact that they have heard certain slogans over and over again.

There is a story that is apparently true about the sinking of the Titanic. Apparently as it sank some of the people jumping onto lifeboats looked up and saw some people standing up on the deck, not wanting to move. The people in the lifeboats said, 'Come on, jump into the lifeboats -- the ship is sinking'. Some of the people on the deck said, 'No, this ship can't sink. We're all right'. The people in the boat said, 'The water is up to the bulkheads. There's 3 feet of water in the ballroom. Come on -- the ship's going down'. Apparently one of

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the people on the deck pulled out the brochure about the Titanic and said, 'This ship can't sink. See? It says --unsinkable!--'.

When people are told something over and over again, sometimes it is very difficult to change their minds, no matter what the evidence. I ask those members who said they will vote for this bill to reconsider and to look at the evidence -- not to be like the people on the deck of the Titanic, believing something because they have heard it so many times that it must be true. I ask them to show courage, change their minds and vote against the bill.

I am certain this bill is a grave mistake; I know it. It represents a danger to all Victorians, particularly, but not only, the unborn. I ask all members to vote for the interests of women and especially for the lives of the most vulnerable and most defenceless -- those who most need their protection. The victims of this bill will be real. Their pain will be real. These real victims are real people. I implore every member to vote against this bill.

Interjections from gallery.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) -- Order! Clear the gallery, please!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! This is a debate in which everybody holds a very strong position. Mr Kavanagh has made a significant contribution to the debate, and that is acknowledged by all sides of the house. His was certainly a heartfelt contribution. The reality is that that display by the gallery was improper in terms of the procedures of the house. Whilst we understand the support that a number of people have for Mr Kavanagh's position, we must maintain the decorum of the house down here.

Members of the public have been warned throughout the day that it is not acceptable for people in the gallery to engage in the debate, and that includes by way of applause or other participation in terms of members' contributions. My predecessor in the Chair rightly suggested that the gallery ought to be cleared on that basis. Mr Elasmar and I both take the view that we do not want to take that action. I suggest that people restrain themselves, listen to the debate and accept the fact that the contributions on the floor need to proceed without participation from members of the gallery.

Date: 10 October 2008

Page 4206

House divided on motion:

Ayes, 23

Barber, Mr
Lovell, Ms
Broad, Ms (Teller)
Madden, Mr
Coote, Mrs
Mikakos, Ms
Darveniza, Ms
Pakula, Mr
Davis, Mr D.
Pennicuik, Ms
Davis, Mr P.
Pulford, Ms
Eideh, Mr
Scheffer, Mr
Hall, Mr
Tee, Mr
Hartland, Ms
Thornley, Mr
Jennings, Mr
Tierney, Ms (Teller)
Koch, Mr
Viney, Mr
Leane, Mr

Page 4207

Noes, 17

Atkinson, Mr
O'Donohue, Mr
Dalla-Riva, Mr
Petrovich, Mrs
Drum, Mr
Peulich, Mrs
Elasmar, Mr
Rich-Phillips, Mr
Finn, Mr (Teller)
Smith, Mr
Guy, Mr
Somyurek, Mr
Kavanagh, Mr (Teller)
Theophanous, Mr
Kronberg, Mrs
Vogels, Mr
Lenders, Mr

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.


Interjections from gallery.

Persons escorted from gallery.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
Fax: 03 5222 8677


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