“There’s
been an enormous amount of pressure over the last couple of months,” new
minister and Liberal up-and-comer Sharman Stone said in a brave interview on AM
this morning. “The Prime Minister’s made it very clear that he’s accepting a
conscience vote on this, and he respects people’s opinions. He understands of
course that they’ll be diverse and he has every right of course to express his
view on this.”

She went
on to say “About between 90 and 93 per cent of Australians consistently say
they strongly support or support women’s rights to have abortions if that’s
what their medical practitioners feel is appropriate for them. So it’s a very
small minority, between 7 and 10 per cent consistently, poll after poll, year
after year who are anti-abortion.”

Well, Minister,
you can now go to Roy Morgan Research for some fresh figures. Twenty
two per cent of respondents aged 14 years and over interviewed this week
indicated that they disapproved of surgical abortion, down three per cent from
February 1998.

The
number of Australians in favour of making RU486 available outstrips the number
of those opposed on a 2:1 basis – 62 per cent support the idea, while 31 per
cent are opposed. Only seven per cent are undecided.

The poll
figures offer a boost to Members of the House of Representatives wanting to
vote in favour of removing ministerial discretion over RU486.

While the
Senate strongly supported such a move yesterday, there have been fears that
MHRs, elected seat by seat rather than from a statewide ticket, could be
scared off by concerted lobbying campaigns. Many Senators have spoken of the
possibility.

Stone
says she’s not scared: “Members and Senators at the end
of the day had made up their mind and were fairly immune to even more emails,
especially you know, the standard emails which are, if you like, form letters.”

The
Morgan results, however, will give a bit of backbone to pro-choice MPs already
dealing with what several have described as an overwhelming email campaign from
anti-abortion campaigners.

Peter Fray

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