The abortion debate is hotting up – and it’s only going to get hotter. But how informed is it?

We spoke yesterday about the open mind – not – that it appears the
chair of the Senate’s RU486 inquiry, ACT Liberal Senator Gary
Humphries, will bring to the job.

Today, there are figures on the number of terminations themselves, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

“The first national abortion figures show more than 84,000 pregnancies are terminated each year, or one in four pregnancies,” The Australian
reports. “The 2003 figure shows the rate of abortion is less than the
controversial figure of 100,000 used by anti-abortion Health Minister
Tony Abbott.”

The Australian’s story carries some good discussion on the issue of abortion counselling:

Women’s Forum Australia spokeswoman Melinda Tankard Reist
said too many women underwent terminations without prior advice,
accusing abortion clinics of failing to inform women about the physical
and psychological risks of the procedure. Ms Tankard Reist welcomed the
Howard Government’s decision to provide Medicare funding for abortion
counselling… However, Cait Calcutt, co-ordinator of pro-choice
counselling service Children by Choice, said counselling should not be
used to pressure women into continuing with an unwanted pregnancy.

There’s also an important message from Parliamentary Finance Secretary
Sharman Stone – tipped as a future minister – that abortion statistics
should not be manipulated to try to reduce women’s access to abortion,
that it is a “sad statistic” that so many women need to have abortions,
and that the rate will only be lowered through education about sexual
health and contraception.

But some vital information seems to be missing – the reason why women
chose to terminate a pregnancy. Which brings us back to the point we
made at the beginning of last week, when we broke the news of Abbott’s
latest anti-abortion measures.

Women don’t just have responsibilities for nine months of pregnancy.
They have bonds and responsibilities until their children become
independent adults – and beyond.

Women have terminations because they don’t believe they live in the
right environment to raise and care for a child. And the government
Abbott is such a prominent member of is making it harder –
particularly for more vulnerable women – to create that environment,
thanks to their welfare-to-work changes.