Until yesterday, Australia was responsible for the death and injury of an unknown number of women hurt in backyard abortions in developing countries, abortions they were forced to have due to the lack of safe alternatives. We were responsible because for 13 years we refused to allow overseas aid to be used for anything related to terminating pregnancies.
Those behind this policy — Brian Harradine, John Howard, abortion opponents on both sides of politics, and religious groups — have the blood of those women on their hands.
The Government took far too long to overturn this shameful and tragic restriction, but it is to be commended for finally doing so, coupled with an increase in aid for family planning.
Labor’s handling of the issue, while tardy, provides a telling contrast with the chaos of the Coalition joint party room. The issue was kept in-house, with both sides being given an extensive opportunity to make their case. No-one backgrounded journalists or tried to push their case in the media. In the end, the substantial majority of ALP members in favour of removing the restriction was recognised, with the Prime Minister content to let his personal views be overridden by the will of his party room. Yesterday, Rudd thanked his colleagues for the mature way they had handled the issue. He was exactly right.