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Oct 28, 2009

Can it ever be ethical to let women die?

So refusing an abortion should be a doctor's right, even if that refusal may see a woman die? asks Leslie Cannold. Religious freedom is important, but it shouldn't trump other human rights.


A disturbing trend is emerging in the writings of those opposed to legal abortion. Since the passage of Victoria’s Law Reform Act last year, they have been campaigning against the limits the new law imposes on the rights of healthcare professionals to conscientiously object to involvement in abortion.

From Liberal Senator Julian McGauran’s most recent contribution in Quadrant, to previous pieces by Father Frank Brennan (chair of the National Human Rights Consultation), Martin Laverty (CEO of Catholic Health Australia) and Doctor’s in Conscience’s Eamonn Mathieson, opponents of legal abortion argue that rights of medical professionals and Catholic health institutions to refuse care to women seeking abortions is absolute. Even where such denial could see a woman die, they maintain that refusing to provide an abortion is the right, and their right, to do.

There is much that is offensive, even shocking, about the absolutist nature of such assertions. However important is religious freedom, it does not trump other rights. However important medical professionals are, their rights are no weightier than those held by others — certainly not their patients to whom they owe a duty of care. In fact, even if religious and conscience rights were trumping, there’s still arguments about whose religion or conscience — the doctor’s or the woman’s — should prevail when conflicts arise over abortion care.

Where the rights of women seeking abortions are taken seriously (and these include their right to follow the dictates of their conscience, to informed decision making about their health, to timely medical care and to life), the absolutist approach seems inadequate at best. At worst, it seems to disregard the pregnant woman’s basic humanity.

Perhaps this fact is why most of those arguing for a change to Victoria’s conscience clause rarely mention women by name. They don’t directly say, “we don’t care if women die, doctors conscience rights are supreme”.

Rather they condemn the new law’s “coercion” of individual health workers and healthcare organisations to act contrary to their consciences by requiring “participation in abortion through … direct assistance.” They declaim with high dugeon the “extraordinary attempt by pro-abortion legislators” to threaten the livelihoods health practitioners who “are unwilling to … perform an abortion,” but never mention that the only compulsion to provide abortion in the Victorian legislation is in an emergency where it is necessary to preserve a woman’s life.

The conscience clause in Victoria’s new abortion law requires just two things from doctor’s wanting to be excused from what the Victorian Law Reform Commission described as the “general expectation that practitioners will provide medical services”.

The first is that they don’t exercise this freedom at the cost of a woman’s life. The second is that they ensure their refusal to provide timely medical care doesn’t translate into her inability to get timely medical care by providing an effective referral.

For those willing to mention women by name, this seems the least they can do. After all, women have rights, too.

Dr Leslie Cannold is a medical ethicist and president of Pro Choice Victoria, a grass-roots organisation that supported the removal of abortion from Victoria’s criminal code.


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94 thoughts on “Can it ever be ethical to let women die?

  1. SusieQ

    Good on you Leslie!!!!

    Gosh, I’m so tired of religious do-gooders (mostly men too it seems in this case…….) trying to impose their beliefs and ideas on the rest of us – as Leslie points out, there is a conscience clause in the legislation – so get over it!

  2. Martin Shanahan

    Oh dearie me Leslie – yesterday you insisted that most children are killed in utero when it is found that they – the child that is not the mother – have some awful incurable disease – one that is that might make the child’s life difficult once born yet has no impact on the mother at all, other than requiring care to be given. The disease might be for example Downs – terrible, can’t have one of them around, not perfect.

    Today you assert egregiously that the anti-abortion forces are all set to watch mothers die – oh really Leslie – this is most like the canard of backyard abortions and coat hangers. Get real will you – check the Medicare stats again and tell us that there are really that many sick women who are pregnant – psychologically disturbed if you like as required in South Australia. There aren’t – the numbers are all out of whack.

    We kill more unborn children every year – and accept this as a community – than die of legitimate disease.

    You Leslie are not talking medicine, you are talking about false perceptions of quality of life.

    Just ask yourself – where have all the children gone who used be put up for adoption. And that is not a dirty word. And adoption is not a death sentence as your much loved abortion always is.

    Best wishes,


  3. Liz45

    Yes Leslie, good on you! This is so tedious, unjust and misogynist. There’s an ingrained dislike, hatred of women by some men, and too many of them are in positions of some power. I’ve had personal experience of the Catholic church’s destructive and inhumane treatment and attidues towards women.
    My first 2 children were born 11 months, 2 weeks and 6 days apart. I arrived home from hospital with my 2nd child in time for my first child’s 1st birthday. I loved them both dearly, wouldn’t be without them, but shouldn’t have had them so close together. I had morning sickness for 9 months. I sought the advice of 5 priests while pregnant the 2nd time, and got 5 different answers. I finally took charge of my own health, and told my doctor I wanted the pill – I took the script home with me.

    4 yrs later I had another child, which caused a severe prolapse of my bladder. (and this is the awful bit.) My urologist at that time was a Catholic. His wife had given birth to about 8 kids? He wouldn’t operate as he said it would ‘spoil my husband’s sex life’? No concern for mine, obviously. I wanted a tubal ligation also, as I’d been told it was dangerous to have any more children. Two years of absolute pain, constant bladder infections and misery went by, until once again, I took charge, made an appointment to see a gynaecologist and then asked for the referral. He agreed with diagnosis, was sympathetic and understanding, agreed to do the tubal ligation even though I was only 25 and it was done. I think I cried with relief and gratitude! I’d been accused of not liking children; what if one of my children died, or my husband; I hadn’t thought it through blah blah!

    Some time later, a conversation with my Mum revealed, that she’d thought I’d had a hysterectomy, which was apparently OK, but told me, that if I died in childbirth I’d go straight to heaven!!!!No mention of who’d mother my present children, let alone a new baby! Amazing! I told her it was my business and my decision, as it was my health and my family. Also, 3 kids were more than enough to provide for. That was about 38 yrs ago, but sadly, nothing much has changed. My sympathies are with the pregnant woman every time. I’ve not found one woman who’s decided to have a termination arrive at that decision without a lot of thought and heartache. If the Church wants to be helpful, instead of investing millions in property etc, they could spend more on providing facilities for children with disabilities, and respite for their parents. There could also be a paid program of community education re how difficult it is to look after a child with many difficulties and disabilities. Sadly, community attitudes can be cruel and thoughtless, but of course priests and other men without this struggle, never counter this.

    I think the Catholic Church should butt out of women’s lives. They don’t have a bloody clue about raising kids, having a relationship let alone being pregnant as well. Money isn’t a problem either, as priests seem to be able to fly around the world at will, and I haven’t heard of them being in danger of losing their homes due to the GFC etc?
    Their attitudes to contraception is criminal in my view. They should be charged with crimes against humanity for the trauma they cause women and their families, not to mention their disgraceful and lying attitude to condoms, particularly in impoverished countries. They’ve contributed to the horrific stats re HIV/Aids in Africa and other countries.

    When Fr Frank Brennan and Julian McGouran and their misogynist mates are pregnant for the first time, they’ll have the right to have their views aired, until then, they can undertake to stop all violence against women, and their current attitudes re women’s fertility is a major form of it. Of course, they’ve both offered to step up and care for these babies for the rest of their lives. What about the woman’s right to life? Women are an expendable commodity in the catholic church – always have been, and I don’t see any change happening soon!

  4. SusieQ

    Liz, what an amazing story – sadly not an uncommon one either I would think….

    Well said – lets see anyone argue with that!!!!

  5. Robert Davidson

    If institutions or medicos have the right to conscientiously object and not perform a duty, then perhaps our secular funding system should recognise their unique place in the system by cutting off public funding.

    Why should my taxes support anything but a system that cares for all?

  6. Heathdon McGregor

    Dear liz45

    Thank you for sharing your amazing tale. As a man I am as astounded how many of my fellow men need to interfere with a womans choice as I am with how many of my fellow heterosexuals have opinions on homosexuality. Until it concerns me (in that I am the father) I have no say. Even then I believe I am limited as it is not my body.

    I was once steadfast in my belief that life has a starting line called Birth. That was until a friend relayed to me that when he felt his child kick then he could not say his child was not alive. I dont know.

    Do any christians celebrate in May the inception of Christ? If they do i am unaware.

  7. EnergyPedant

    Liz I agree you were mistreated. However its not a legal matter of forcing a doctor to operate, its simply a case of you taking your medical business elsewhere. If your doctor is crap, insensitive, unhygienic, etc… then go to someone else. If they don’t believe in abortion, go to someone else.

    Back to the article. Leslie is caught up with the handful (if that) of cases where an emergency abortion is necessary. Put simply if you go to a doctor who doesn’t tell you your life is in danger then they should be de-registered. If they tell you but refuse to perform an abortion then go find a different doctor. Woman are capable thinking adults, not basket cases.

  8. Liz45

    Indeed! There’s a saying, that feminists aren’t born, they’re man-made! I agree with this. I was a quiet little mouse, brought up in the 1950’s where women were treated as girls – flighty, stupid, and second class citizens to the real people – men. The education of boys was more important than ours too. This was certainly true if you went to a Catholic school and had these attitudes reinforced at home. My parents had 9 kids, and I never doubted their love for me, but they were products of their upbringing too. I understood this more as I got older, but the Church has not moved very much in relation to women’s rights or issues pertaining to them or their rightful place in the world. The arrogance of these people is mindblowing.

    I agree with the views above re doctor’s funding etc. If they want to pick and choose their responsibilities, they shouldn’t be practicing medicine at all. It is contributory manslaughter to not treat a woman’s health with the same importance as men’s or kids or an embryo or foetus. Women are professional people as Leslie exhibits; we raise kids, hold down a job, run a home and hopefully have a love life. We’re competent intelligent people who even in our 20’s can make intelligent and reasonable decisions. I support any woman who wishes to make her own decisions about anything. I also don’t arrogantly pick and choose what I’ll support, depending on my personal views. Only when women are really empowered and recognised in this way will those dictators leave us alone.

    Can you imagine for example, a doctor telling a man with prostate cancer that he shouldn’t have surgery because he may become impotent, and this will deny his partner a sex life? At this stage of surgical prowess, and the ‘tricky’ position of the prostate, sadly this is reality for many men. It’s unthinkable isn’t it? But these people think it’s OK to put our lives at risk. Of course, any woman who truly loved him would want him alive as her first priority. Imagine the hue and cry if that reached the media – as indeed it should. But women, we’re in a different category aren’t we? These bigoted and unjust men(mostly) think our rights to health are secondary to their views. Thankfully, there are many men who agree and support us!

  9. John james

    Cannold, in a speech delivered to the Perinatologists meeting in Melbourne this week, acknowledged that abortion, up to the day before birth, was a “right”, and insisted that babies born alive after abortion ought not be resuscitated.
    This has never been about women dying, because with good obstetric care that doesn’t happen. This is about killing the innocent and helpless. Autonomy gone mad!
    A decent society looks for a healthy mother and child. That Cannold, and her sectarian mates, are prepared to sweep away any semblance of concern for the unborn, says much about their perverse notion of good medicine.

  10. Bogdanovist

    Look, there are plenty of religious loonies out there and Liz’s story in #3 is a terrifying example of the destruction that medieval superstitions can have on real peoples lives, BUT we shouldn’t assume that because some people who oppose abortion are ignorant maniacs with imaginary friends that therefore abortion must be a good thing.

    I’m a staunch atheist and someone who is relatively anti-abortion on ethical grounds. I reject the notion that this is a gender issue and find many pro-abortin arguements essentially empty attacks on religion and patriarchy. While I have nothing against attacking religion or the patriarchy, doing so doesn’t change the answer to the complex ethical questions surrounding abortion.

    If a doctor believes that abortion is the ending of a human life, then I would expect them to behave accordingly, regardless of why they have that view.

    In my view, abortion via essentially miscarriage inducing drugs early on is the most acceptable, and can be argued from an ethical viewpoint. Surgical abortion which first requires administering a lethal injection to a viable human life is in my view far less defensible.

  11. Liz45

    JOHN JAMES – Go back and read the other posts. Leslie Carnold has not said one word about not caring for the unborn, the argument is about the rights of the mother even if her life is in danger. The comments are after several so-called pro life males?? assert, no aggressively state that they’re prepared to let a woman die out of their bigoted and anti woman attitude towards the pregnant woman. Pay attention and stop acting in a hysterical manner. Have a cold shower for god’s sake, and then calmly read the article?

    Women do die today before, during and after childbirth. Go and look at some of the Coroner’s reports in NSW for a start. I can think of at least 2 off the top of my head – relatively recent cases. it’s more dangerous to carry a baby to full term and give birth than have an abortion in ideal conditions – a hospital, with sterile and good hygiene practices. You are the worst type of bigot, because you decide to remain completely ignorant of the facts. You also spuke your nonsense safe in the knowledge that you’ll never have to decide, nor will you be in the position I was, and sadly too many women are still placed. You’re talking rubbish, bull shit in fact.

    Sadly, I also experienced a miscarriage at 14 weeks. It was like labour, went on for hours and was painful, traumatic and very sad. I don’t recall anyone suggesting that there be some service or memorial. I then went on to have 3 beautiful children. There’s no way that experience was in any way a future life. Such a marked difference between that foetus and my babies born at full term. But, of course you blokes have no idea what you’re talking about. Even women who are pregnant with their first baby admit, that their perception of giving birth was so different to reality – they’re shocked and amazed at the agony etc. Men would probably give up three months into the pregnancy, particularly if they’d been vomiting several times a day every day, or having to stay in bed for weeks or months prior to the birth due to possible dangerous complications. I did that too!

    Tell me you two – think of the sexual experiences you’ve had in your life to date. Have you just assumed the woman was ‘taking care of her fertility’ or did you always take the initiative and insist on using a condom. If there was at least one occasion when you didn’t, how do you know that you didn’t participate in her pregnancy? If you can’t categorically state it never happened, then buzz off! I’ve spent my life arguing with hypocritical people like you, who preach from the high moral ground, but whose personal practices are irresponsible, misogynist and arrogant – to say the least! In fact, it’s blokes like you who are the quickest on the phone when an unwanted pregnancy is caused by the likes of you! I’ve heard the stories so often!!!!

    What would you do to ensure that there were no abortions? Lock pregnant women up? How would you know who they were? Tap into patient/doctor consultations. What would you do with them then? What would you do with the babies when born? Raise them yourselves? Jail the women who still procured an abortion – as only backyard jobs would be available under your ‘brave new world’, most of the women would be dead! Honestly! If you want a world where women won’t need to make a decision to have an abortion, get off your bums and make it that way! That includes ensuring, that violence towards women is wiped out – for good! That rape in marriage or similar relationships is just a bad memory. Too many incidents like this result in pregnancy!
    Swear an oath on White Ribbon Day!

  12. SBH

    Thanks Liz45 again.

    Heathdon Catholics celebrate ‘The Annunciation’ which forms the basis of the prayer ‘the Hail Mary’ which forms the bulk of the rosary. The centrality of this myth to Catholicism may go a long way to explaining Catholic attitudes to abortion.

    John James one of the key developments in this debate has been that the criminalising of abortion precludes good obstetric care and leads to death by sepsis and hemorrhage as desperate women take matters into their own hands. The real objection to abortion is that its a sin and has nothing to do with women’s or children’s rights or health.

    Bogdanovist I’m an atheist and I agree with most of your ethical points. But I don’t think anyone is saying abortion is a good thing, that’s a twist added by anti-abortion campaigners to obfuscate. Nobody I know who had one says it was a good thing but they all feel the choice was the right one for them. It is a thing that happens however and the criminalising of abortion only ever lead to more women dying not less abortions.

    Dr Cannold, thank you for your disclosure. I would like to see a similar disclosure from the federal secretary of the AMA, Francis Sullivan, who routinely talks of doctors rights and professionalism when speaking on behalf of the AMA. While it’s no secret (like your views) he doesn’t tend to advise his audience as a matter of course that he is a Catholic who was the CEO of the lobbyist group Catholic Health Australia for 14 years before joining the AMA in 2007.

  13. james mcdonald

    For a good proposed reform, please see http://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/nwww/prochoicecounsel.htm and pass the proposed truth-in-advertising law.

    As I argued in the other thread, it should apply more broadly to all medical professionals who might be called on for abortion services and who conscientiously object. A sign on the front counter saying “This practice will not assist with abortion” would show credibility in conscientious objection, rather than enable health professionals to block abortion by stealth and manipulation. Any health professional refusing to help and not displaying a sign would be subject to disciplinary action.

    Moral objections to abortion are based on unborn childrens’ right to life, arguing that there’s no absolute difference between a foetus and a child running around in the playground. The Catholic Church takes this further and considers even a sperm to be a little life and the use of contraceptives as a form of murder.

    But a sperm is a gamete; in genetic terms, half a life at best. Follow the same logic to its conclusion, and every monthly egg is also a life, and not to complete its potential is to murder it. So, every time a woman does not have s-x in a month, she’s committing murder of that egg.

    Where do you draw the line between what is a person and what isn’t?

  14. james mcdonald

    Martin Shanahan: “Just ask yourself – where have all the children gone who used be put up for adoption.”

    There’s a reason why the “pro-choice” lobby does not call itself the “pro-abortion” lobby, and it’s not just marketing. Pro-choice campaigners also defend the right of a woman to bear a child if they want to.

    Just ask yourself – where have all the out-of-wedlock children gone whose mothers once used to be forced into abortions they didn’t want, to hide a family’s shame? Many are now growing up with single mothers and leading full lives.

  15. Liz45

    Of course nobody ‘likes’ the idea of abortion. Perhaps I should’ve emphasized more, that apart from the reason, that after 3 children, it was deemed dangerous for me to be pregnant again, I didn’t want to have to make that decision. Accidents happen. I also didn’t want to stay on the pill for maybe 40 years after my child bearing days were over. I’ve also stated, that many women have confided in me over the years, that they had an abortion, but not one make that decision lightly. The Catholic Church as has been pointed out considers contraception a form of murder, as it does male masturbation. My goodness, call pro-choice people extremists? What a load of nonsense! They contribute to the deaths of many women and children. I believe that a woman dies somewhere in the world every 12 minutes, due to pregnancy, abortion, child birth or other associated gynaecological problems. Like the young girls who are pregnant too young, are in labour sometimes for days and end up with dead babies, fistulas and or death. It’s an Australian couple -both obstetricians,(only the woman is alive now)who gave their lives to these people and now have a hospital there for sadly, too many women who need surgery.
    I don’t recall hearing that the Catholic Church gave any assistance!

    I have no time for the Catholic Church or any other extremist and mind manipulating group, cult or sect. Women hand over their decision making processes to men who aren’t even allowed a sex life? What do they know? Less than men in a relationship I suggest. No idea!

    I’ve also mentioned on another site, the plight of the asylum seeker, a woman from China. She was 8 months pregnant and pleaded to be able to stay here and have her baby.(Howard years!)She was deported, and as predicted her baby was aborted by the authorities. Many people, mainly women sent emails, made phone calls etc – I was one of them, as were many other pro-choice women. I supported her choice 100% – we lost! I found that most distressing and still feel very angry about such heartlessness! No word from Abbott or Pell or Minchin or anyone else who’s anti-choice. Where were these people on this matter of principle? I often wonder how that poor woman coped with her trauma. It was a blatant disregard for her life, let alone her child’s. This is the hypocrisy that always trips them up. Political expediency takes the place of any scruples or sense of humanity or dignity! Who’s looking after the pregnant woman/women? on those boats near Indonesia?

    As for adoptions from women who don’t want a child? Surely we can learn from history. Those poor young women of my era, before and since, who had their babies literally stolen from their drugged arms. They never recovered, and their children were also distressed/confused/angry in later life. They were denied the right to know their history, which in a medical sense could be life threatening. Senators on that inquiry were reduced to tears. Let’s learn from history and not advocate that happening again. Also, women aren’t baby factories and shouldn’t be treated as such. I could never have given my baby away – it would’ve destroyed me!

  16. SBH

    Yes Liz45 and the other point that needs to be understood about the church’s view is that it sees this world and all it’s suffering as amounting to nothing, a distraction. We should put up with anything to be allowed access to the next.

    You can’t argue the case for humanistic health services with people who hold the catholic view. On the up side it seems that Australian society at large has firmly rejected this view.

  17. Aphra

    Well said, Liz45. I am so sorry for your ghastly experiences.

    I know of no person, feminist or otherwise, who thinks that abortion is a ‘good thing’. That is a gross and deliberate distortion. What most support is a woman’s right to decided whether or not to carry a child to term, given her own particular circumstances. Those whom I know who have had a termination all feel a profound sadness at the loss, unavoidable though it became for them.

    Criminal, illegal abortions caused many deaths and much suffering in the past. My 14 year old cousin disappeared and her remains were found 17 days later. The coroner concluded that she’d died from a botched abortion, and, abandoned, had bled to death. No frightened child should ever have suffered that heinous end and if only to negate the possibility of another young woman’s lonely demise and misery, I strongly support legalised abortion. Following the coroner’s determination, the very next Sunday at Mass, the priest declared that Joy was now suffering torments in hell for her sins! I kid you not! As the rest of us were all under 10 years of age, we became instantly panicked and hysterical, after which we were never forced to go to Mass again. In fact, at age 8, I refused and have never done so, since, unless for the funeral of a beloved friend or family member.

    Next, my mother, a good catholic mum at that, nearly died due to her 6th pregnancy, after doctors warned her against bearing more children. For nearly 5 months, the five of us were farmed out to relatives until my poor mother was able to return to us. I remember, so well, crying myself to sleep every night, thinking that Mum would also go to hell and be tormented because her baby had died in the womb. I was, of course, too young to understand the difference, or even know what a womb actually was. Later, the priest told us all that the baby’s death and Mum’s perilous, near fatal condition was the ‘Will of God’, but no one explained to her or us what God’s Will about the welfare of her five remaining children, all under 10, was. Luckily for my parents and their children, contraception rapidly improved not long after. This, too, was a sin, apparently. Today, my Mum is well into her 90s but she still feels guilty about her baby’s death and her subsequent use of contraceptives. A plague on the bloody Church, its fanciful dogma, and its hierarchy of non-menstruating males, is my considered view.

    I respect all of those who truly believe in the sanctity of all human life and am puzzled that so few actually exist. I’ve argued with extended family members who are ethically opposed to abortion as they’re militantly Pro-Life, but who’ve, nevertheless, supported the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and capital punishment. ‘Tis all humbug, I say. Who can possibly evaluate one human life against another?

    Doctors who are enriched on the public purse should be obliged to treat all patients, indifferently. It’s a truism that they don’t, and it’s why my husband removed me from one hospital, in the most unpleasant and trying of circumstances, and took me to another, judging that my life was more important to him than that of a foetus which the first hospital was trying to save, at all costs, which, he felt, included my life.

    If some doctors have so much conflict, then they should become priests. Perhaps though, things in the church will only change when a black woman becomes Pope!

    If, in this relatively small Crikey community, there are these stories of neglect, maltreatment, and righteous superiority, imagine how many women (and men) there must be out there who have similar stories.

  18. Heathdon McGregor

    Thanks SBH for the clarification

  19. james mcdonald

    Actually in playing out the internal logic of the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion and contraception (above), I didn’t go far enough. Because the Church also considers s-x outside marriage a sin. So to be consistent, any girl who does not get married upon her first period and start trying to have children every fertile month of her life, is a murderer.

    For any Catholics still troubled by the wages of unredeemed sin (and I don’t blame you, it’s ingrained deeply), know that the prevailing view of Catholic theologians for some years has been that there is no indestructible soul, subject to eternal torment if it emerges from life too damaged for heaven. Instead, God has the power to resurrect the dead for heaven. Those not granted resurrection are disposed of in an eternal fire–the fire is eternal, not those burning in it. A few moments of thinking shows that an all good, all powerful god could not countenance eternal torture for any being.

    Like a lot of Catholic theology, the hierarchy considers this too complex for the laity and for much of the priesthood, so you continue to be taught you’ll spend eternity burning alive if you do wrong.

  20. Martin Shanahan

    The straw men swilling around this discussion are falling over themselves with glee – what more can we say about the Catholic Church and its priests in our efforts to denigrate. The absurdities are highlighted in these sentences:

    “The Catholic Church as has been pointed out considers contraception a form of murder, as it does male masturbation. My goodness, call pro-choice people extremists? What a load of nonsense!”

    The Catholic Church has never taught that contraception is murder. Never.

    The Catholic Church has never taught that male masturbation is murder. Never.

    An extremist is one who asserts the absolute right to end the life of another human being /person even though that other human being / person is absolutely innocent and poses no threat to the extremist.

    If I attempt to persuade you not to rob a bank, I am not forcing my belief that banks should not be robbed onto you. If I argue in support of the unborn child, I am not imposing my beliefs on you.

    If you insist on the right to terminate the life of an unborn child you are the one absolutely imposing your beliefs on another person – with permanently fatal consequences.

    Every single abortion always involves a fatality. Always. Every single one.

    Self defence is not equal to pregnancy.

    Wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan are not comparable to pregnancy.

    Look at the South Australian records – more than 90% of pregnant women are said to have a psychological/psychiatric illness. Pregnancy is not a disease. Why in South Australia only are pregnant women suffering such epidemics of mental illness?

    Oh, and condoms in Africa – wherever condom usage is pushed by Governments and NGOs, AIDS is spreading like wildfire.

    In the two countries where condoms are actively discouraged, AIDS has prevalence has fallen.

    Oh, they are the countries with flourishing Catholic communities.

    Best wishes,


  21. james mcdonald

    Martin: Just one question. At what point does a potential life become a life and thus a possible murder victim?

  22. SBH

    Martin, I understand the requirement to evangelise but what ever way you look at it your view is not the mainstream view. If you don’t ever want to have or assist with an abortion fair enough that’s your business. You can’t just spread your religious conviction to enforce your view on other free beings who are exercising their free will.

    Now you can list off the sins that are going to destroy us all like the cities of the plain but It’s worth noting that like abortion, not fulfilling your Sunday obligation is good enough to get you sent to hell (unless you die wearing a brown scapula of course or did nine first fridays). These kinds of prescriptions are simply meaningless to most people.

  23. james mcdonald

    All the same, SBH, there are enough Catholics in thrall to Martin’s view of the universe that questions like these put them in immortal terror. Let’s hear what he has to say. I’m a better Catholic theologian than he is. (And I’m not even a Catholic.)

  24. james mcdonald

    (… or a theologian)

  25. Martin Shanahan

    James – the Catholic Church holds that human life begins at conception and continues to natural death.

    SBH, the views of the Catholic Church described in Acts were hardly mainstream either I am not quite sure where you have spotted me enforcing my views on others as you suggest I do.

    I believe that far fewer mothers will suffer post-abortion distress if the medicos about to terminate their pregnancy put an ultra-sound on the mothers and let them see their child.

    I have not at any point attempted to list off “sins that are going to destroy us”.

    James and SBH, the God I know is a god of mercy, love and understanding. I do not know that God as an evil being.

    The God I know, in his infinite wisdom, gave me (and you both), the exquisite gift of free will. So extraordinary is this gift that the God I know permits me to choose him or reject him. The decision is mine not his. The God I know has such care for me that he has instituted special sacraments – indeed he swore an oath that he would provide for me (and yet still allow me to reject him). As a Catholic I have access to these sacraments as often as I want (for those that relate to daily living).

    Abortion is a social matter – not just an issue for the mother about to lose a child. That SBH is why I am completely entitled to propound my views.

    Best wishes,


  26. james mcdonald

    So far so good. Now, if human life begins at conception, is there anything wrong with preventing conception?

  27. Martin Shanahan

    Let us make sure we mean the same thing – what do you mean by “preventing conception”?

  28. james mcdonald

    Such as exercising God’s gift of making love in such a way that no conception can result.

  29. Martin Shanahan

    Take advantage of the human body’s natural mechanisms and avoid intercourse for a few days when the woman is fertile. The use of artificial or mechanical methods of contraception are always dangerous – they deliberately place a barrier between the woman and the man rendering the relationship at that point sterile. The goal is to be open to life rather than placing barriers in the way. And for the couple to mutually show their love for each other by demonstrating that their gift to each other is absolutely without restriction.

  30. james mcdonald

    What makes the Church think there’s any difference in God’s eyes between a temporal barrier (rhythm method) and a mechanical or chemical barrier?

  31. james mcdonald

    I’m not here to amuse myself playing games, Martin. I think you’re a good man of your faith (good within the limits of original sin, that is).

    But Aquinas said, “The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”

    And there are certain scientific facts that most of the Church is still digesting. (I say most of the Church. The gulf between what’s taught from the pulpit and what’s discussed in the theological colleges can be surprising. But the flock are not responsible for divining the will of God by their own reasoning; the Church takes responsibility for any errors in this as long as the flock follow its true authority in faith.)

    The Church has not fully digested the fact that each egg dies at the end of the month. Which means there’s no significant moral difference between that lost opportunity and a mechanically/chemically prevented pregnancy. Or, arguably, a terminated pregnancy, although the exact point of quickening has yet to be determined. And, as I said earlier, even the nature of that quickening is no longer as simplistic as a “ghost in the machine”, as it were.

  32. SBH

    Martin for shame, you do not choose God he chooses you. Your faith is only available to you because God chose to reveal himself to you. To think otherwise is a sin of pride. I’m not ridiculing your faith Martin but that’s what catholics believe and preach.

    Anyway that esoterica is off topic. The objection to abortion that has been expressed has nothing to do with women’s or children’s health or whether or not doctors can exercise their professional judgement.

    It has to do with a fundamental difference of values. I value this world and others value the next. Sins in this world stop you getting to the next. All the other decoration on the argument hides this view because it is so utterly unacceptable to most people. At least an atheist like Bogdanovist admits the ethical struggle most of us has and doesn’t try to cloak it in some irrelevant temporal concern.

  33. Liz45

    APHRA- My heart goes out to you. I can empathise with your torment as a child, as I frequently felt likewise. I remember forgetting and eating meat once, and I agonised for days that I’d get killed and go to hell. I can still remember those horrific ‘sermons’ (exercises in pure evil in my view) about the torments of hell. How gross to terrify little children like that. I marvel these days when the newsreader warns, ‘that the following story includes images that may offend some viewers’ and I always respond, I doubt it, I ‘saw’ worse images as a child.

    I share your frustration with family members, who have such illogical double standards, re abortion and war, the death penalty etc. I didn’t sent my kids to a catholic school, as I didn’t want them bashed by nuns like I was. Or sit in class while my friend was ridiculed, humiliated, denigrated when she didn’t have a correct answer – the tool used to ridicule her was the recent tragic death of her mother – we were about 11 yrs old! I stood up to that nun, got up, walked out and went home. No way were my kids going to cop that!

    The teaching re the church about contraception and masturbation clearly reinforced the view, that preventing conception was the denial of the possibility of a life – wasting semen was treated in the same manner. We were led to understand, that it was a form of murder – preventing a life. They may have modified their dogma these days, but in the 50’s & 60’s – that was the message. I clearly recall being taught by mission priests during a retreat, that us girls(women) had to take the responsibility because boys couldn’t control themselves. Now where have I heard that said? Young men during a poll re having the right to ‘initiate’ sex, and what was and wasn’t rape. The answer was, that they couldn’t STOP! Sadly, over the years, some judges thought the same. Only recently, a Judge in WA stated, that as the female victim lost consciousness(via alcohol) during the rape, it was only a “technical rape” as she couldn’t say no! Thankfully, in NSW our laws now state, that at any time the male must make sure he has consent, and if not, he must stop! A woman who is drunk or drugged or knocked unconscious can’t give consent, so that means NO GO!

    I’ve just come home from a Reclaim the Night rally(held every year) where different women spoke of the various and many aspects of women’s lives, where it is not safe for us to function as we should. Domestic violence; rape and incest; a young woman from Afghanistan spoke very eloquently about her country, how the women and children are being forced to live, and the apathy of the rest of the world – the support for Karzai’s oppressive laws recently passed. There was also a doctor who works in an abortion centre, who told us of the frequent sight of young women, who present for a termination, with bruises all over their bodies, victims of violence from their partners/husbands. There were some disturbing statistics from the US(hard to get, we don’t have any here she said??) about violence to women who presented for terminations. Of those who said they’d experienced violence from their partners, 46% of them were pregnant. A high number of these women experienced violence for the first time when pregnant. If my doctor friend is seeing so many young women with bruises seeking a termination, who knows how they became pregnant in the first place?What about all those out there who nobody sees, nobody knows about (even family members) and too few care!

    Perhaps those die hard anti-choice people just might sit up, take notice and do something positive to stop violence towards women. How any man could assault a woman is beyond me, but to bash the woman who’s carrying his child is impossible for me to analyse. The misogynist attitudes of the Catholic Church only reinforces the view, that women are to be controlled; that it is a man’s right to assert ‘authority’ and that women are here for their use and benefit. Look at their attitude to women’s ordination as priests for example! Every time a representative of this so-called religion, and others, speak in that manner, they reinforce the attitudes of these abusers. Sadly, they have too much of an influence on young boys and men. They have too much influence on politicians, the media and society in general. I’ve had a gutful of their despicable hypocrisy and their closed minds and evil hearts, as depicted in APHRA’s terrible experiences. That has nothing to do with love, god’s or anyone elses. The rules that cause this misery are man made – by the pope/s, who have no idea of what they’re talking about, and deep down have a hatred of women, or perhaps just a “Damned Whores and God’s Police” (Ann Summer’s book)mentality!

    What role does the Catholic Church play in White Ribbon Day? I’ve never heard it mentioned in the news, or seen any commemoration or??

  34. james mcdonald

    And my parting word is for any Catholic women reading this, who are afraid of making their own choice. Long story short, the Church has changed its canon on abortion many times, for various reasons, and no doubt not for the last time. While it claims authority on sins, it has no power over something if it never was a sin in the first place. If it is a sin, and if no absolution is provided, the wages of sin is not eternal torture, it is simply a literal death, no more and no less. Don’t let them terrify you like that. Over and out.

  35. Martin Shanahan

    We treat the unborn as commodities. The IVF industry demonstrates that. The product must be male or female. The product may not have particular genes. Any that fail the product test are destroyed. Leftover product is stored against the possibility that more may be required at some indeterminate period in the future. If two or more products develop then we destroy one or more – too expensive to keep multiples.

    Some kid themselves that in utero its not human, it doesn’t look like a just born baby – that’s dead right. How many one day babies look like 10 year olds and then how many 50 year olds have the characteristics of a 20 year old let alone a 10 day old. What is constant – the genetic makeup at the point of conception is the same as that individual will have at death. Extraordinary.

    Human life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Human life is worthy of protection at every single point along that continuum.

    Some maintain that pregnancy and childbirth are more dangerous than abortion at any point. This is false on two counts: the statistics do not support the assertion that more women die in childbirth than are felled by the abortions; and critically, each and every abortion always, always kills an unborn child – just as the embryos destroyed by the IVF technician are human beings killed.

    Doctors have an ethical obligation to treat both patents during pregnancy even if they give some priority to the mother. Pity not all doctors still take that ancient oath that has so much to offer: “first do no harm”.

  36. Heathdon McGregor

    Dear Martin

    Human life begins at conception and ends at natural death

    I believe that birth is the start of life as an in utero being cannot exist independantly outside of the body and we do not celebrate our conception every year but the celebration of our birth and the beginning of our lives. How old are you? Do you count from your inception when answering that question or your birth?

    Loving the debate between Martin,James Liz and SBH. Respectful, for the most, considered opposing points of view discussed, rather than abuse yelled.

  37. Martin Shanahan

    Hi Heathdon (thank you for that last comment too – I agree, much more pleasant even though tough matter),

    We may count our birthdays from the date of birth – I am not aware of too many infants who can exist independently of their parents and many adolescents have the same need – my 83 year old father-in-law needs help though still living “independently” at home. And my 93 year old mother needed care over the last 2 years of her life as dementia took control.

    Age is not the determinant. Nor is ability to live independently (should we count from when the kids leave home, and what about when they return?) Some suggest that the womb is the safest place in the world. Once I believed that. With 80,000+ abortion recorded by Medicare every year, it’s not really all that safe after all.

    Simply for clarity – I am married. We have six children, We had one miscarriage – Mary Rose buried in a large pot with a beautiful rose above it which is tended carefully – and four of my children were present with me too at the time of the miscarriage. We have three grandchildren. I am Catholic – and one much in need of the sacraments.

  38. Heathdon McGregor

    Dear Martin

    I’m sorry I meant exist independantly from the mothers womb. An in utero body will die almost instantly(I imagine) as it requires the feeding and protection that it has from the womb. Without this protection it will die. An infant or an aged person may need help to make their lives easier or even bearable but they dont die instantly without that assistance. My mother passed from Lewi bodies so I undersatnd what you mean in regard to your mother. My mother would have been in real trouble without support but she would not have died instantly.

    While i agree that infants would not be able to survive without their parents they would not starve to death instantly or be poisoned by the air to unformed lungs. Premature births may be the exception(born before term but still(bad choice sorry) born.

    I look forward to the rest of this debate as in fact I believe it is like debating the existence of God. Nobody’s mind will be changed but all of our perspectives may be altered.

  39. james mcdonald

    Hi Martin, while the Church currently teaches that all abortion is wrong and that the point of ensoulment is at conception, it has changed its mind about this every half dozen popes or so. It’s been held to be at various terms of pregnancy, and at times it’s even been held to take place before conception. The fact that John Paul II did not revise any of the canon on birth control in his encyclical attracted a lot of criticism from some quite senior Church members who did not see the bigger picture. John Paul II was engaged in a struggle, chiefly against the Bolsheviks, for the soul of the 20th century. A war, really. A compromiser in his position, someone who appeared to give an inch, would not have stood a chance of doing what he did. He did more to end tyranny than the combined efforts of the western intelligence services combined (something for church haters to keep in mind). I seem to be a long way off the point, but I’m not. Another pope might have revised a lot of things, in light of the exposion of 20th century scientific knowledge refining the Church’s understanding of the world God created. But JP was a big-picture man and he judged (rightly) that now was not the time. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t–aren’t–a lot of things overdue for review and perhaps to be awaited under the next pope after Benedict (unless you expect great things from him).

    I’m all in favour of debate, but I would ask you also to specify: is it the act of abortion that you are speaking out against, or the laws that enable an act of abortion? Should a woman be in a position to exercise free will in this matter, even though one of her choices is a sin in your view?

    Also, please bear in mind that for some people, all this discussion of sin and excommunication can be quite terrifying, and the Church does not make a habit of telling its members more than it feels they need to know.

    And finally, the feminist movement has saved a lot of lives too, as I said earlier, because “choice” also includes the choice to bear a child out of wedlock which not long ago would have disappeared without trace when the girl was forced to go “visiting relatives”.

  40. Martin Shanahan


    Abortion is any act that has as it direct intended consequence the killing of an unborn child. The destruction of sperm or ova is not the killing of an unborn child.

    It is appropriate for laws to support the social fabric – thus we have laws pertaining to murder and theft. I do not suggest that abortion is the same as murder. We distinguish culpability for causing the death of others when we define murder and manslaughter. In both an individual kills another. The intent is quite different.

    I come from an extended family with many children conceived and / or born out of wedlock. In this extended family, any upset and there have definitely been tears, has been based on the inability of the individuals to wait for marriage – I am talking about children going back to the 1960s too. One of my daughters presented us with a grandchild much earlier than anyone had anticipated. For his early years he grew as one of the family (so for a while it was as though there were 7 children and having 2 mothers made for interesting dynamics). Did that change things, of course. Does she thank God for this child today, definitely.

    Heathdon, it is not unusual for a child born very early, 18 -22 weeks, to breathe fitfully for a few minutes and occasionally hours before dying. And a trainer with whom I have worked closely in the last 4 – 5 years recently gave birth to her first son – I think at 23 weeks, it may have been 24 weeks. This baby has done extraordinarily well – necessarily receiving neo-natal intensive care for weeks. Now at home, this couple realise how fortunate they have been. Without oxygen, intravenous nourishment, this child would not have survived. Maybe for a few hours, but not longer.

    When I receive an anaesthetic I lose complete control, surrendering it to others. I do not thereby forfeit my right to be treated with dignity and care, I do not forfeit my right to life.

    I am certainly in a quandary about what is to be done with the huge number of embryos that exist in a frozen hiatus. Do we say, stop, no more so we can quantify the damage. Do we thaw them and let them succumb naturally? Do we offer them to families knowing that some will implant and some will not? I simply don’t know. I am aware that some great minds are wrestling with this. The wrong act is not the disposition of the frozen embryos, it is in their

    James I am struggling with understanding the point you maintain about the changeability of the Popes on the commencement of life. I think there has been real doubt about the point at which life begins. The notion of quickening was long used. This point was considered to be the most likely point at which (in Catholic belief) the soul is one with the body. Aquinas thought that the quickening occurred about 40 days into a pregnancy. Be careful to rely on Aquinas as the signpost on the theology and science for everything. Extraordinary theologian that he was, there are some issues where he argued cogently yet was wrong. Some critical Catholic teachings relating to the Mother of God he didn’t get right.

    The Catholic Church has consistently opposed abortion – the deliberate termination of pregnancy at any time. John Paul 2 was a staunch opponent of abortion at any time.

    James you ask me whether a woman should be able to exercise free will in this matter. Yes, she should. Understanding though that there are consequences – the psychological scars are often vicious. Any woman contemplating an abortion needs to be shown an ultrasound of her baby in utero – if the baby is still too small she should be shown a video of a child in utero at different stages of development. She must be counselled on the psychological detritus of abortion. She needs to be in a follow-up program that helps her through the rough times ahead.

    Abortion rarely solves any problem. It just makes them so much bigger.

    Best wishes,


    (Heathdon, I am disappointed, I thought I was winning you over to the side of the angels.)

  41. Liz45

    My doctor friend also gave some stats re the U.S. and what happens to women. The second highest reason for women who are pregnant to die is homicide – not abortion! I’ve heard medical people with more knowledge of the dangers etc to assert, that carrying a foetus to full term and giving birth is more dangerous to the woman than an abortion. Also stats reveal, that the women who had an abortion were more likely to be depressed after the procedure IF THEY HAD BEEN VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. That is, that the violence is more likely to be a precursor to depression than the abortion itself.

    NO WOMAN WANTS TO HAVE AN ABORTION – none! It is usually something that is forced upon her by circumstances, and sadly, too many are related to the abuse of men. Too many women experience violence while pregnant, of either physical, psychological, emotional or financial. I’ve heard midwives assert, that they see pregnant women with ‘work boot marks on their bellies’???(Conversation Hour, ABC Radio, Richard Fidler)Who would want to have a child to a man like that? Some men(too many, sadly) who are immature and deficient, resent the invasion of ‘others’ in their lives when their partner is pregnant – doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers perhaps, and they fear that their revolting behaviour will be ‘discovered’? Then the violence escallates.

    I’m not particularly interested in getting involved in an indepth discussion, debate, argument over the so-called religious view of abortion, or when life does or does not begin. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just academic ‘extras’ that discuss everything but the main reality. Women have always sought abortions for an unwanted pregnancy. I understand it goes back to Roman and Greek history. Aboriginal women knew what natural herbs etc to take to procure an abortion. The history in my lifetime has confirmed this – that women will decide,( and it’s best to provide a medical procedure, early in the pregnancy and in a safe and sterile environment) if they are not able to mother a child – and will then determine to have a termination. The sensible thing to do, is ensure that there are no environmental components that would lead her to this decision. In short, remove all the forms of violence!

    If men, all men, are incensed or displeased or not happy about this, then they have a very clear and attainable series of actions to take. They actively and publicly advocate against all forms of violence towards women and kids. They speak out against their mates, their brothers, fathers and sons who do not treat women with respect. They raise their own sons and daughters from before birth to realise, that all forms of violence are wrong and callous criminal acts. I deliberately use the words ‘before birth’ as our attitudes and the way we relate to our children often start before birth, and are too often dependant on our own sexist attitudes re aggression, violence and their roles in life. Otherwise, what is the reason why there is so much aggression and violence in the world, and why is it condoned as part of life.

    The trouble for women, and I’m one of them, is that this aggression impacts negatively on every aspect of our lives, including when we’re pregnant. I can remember as though it was yesterday, my then husband pulling me by the ear to show me the dust on the window sills – I was at least 5 months pregnant at the time with my second child, and had been very sick, every morning, every afternoos and …. I also recall his impatience when he was asked to come home from work, as I was suffering(what I now know was very dangerous to myself and my baby)awful symptons with high blood pressure with my last child. 1 in 4 women are being abused at this time – 1 in 3 women will be abused in their life time – look along your street or apartment building and do the ‘maths’? And, violence against women over 45 is very high too! Scary isn’t it? I just hope, that this year on White Ribbon Day, more men buy ribbons, and they go on the website and take the oath – http://www.whiteribbonday.org.au But most importantly, they speak out! Silence is the perpetrators insurance of safety!

  42. Martin Shanahan

    Liz45, I share and understand your pain.

    Violence against women at any time is abhorrent.

    Violence against pregnant women is particularly vile.

    Violence perpetrated against women makes abortion seem as a way to prevent further violence. Almost every time it fails.

    Abortion is a violent act – it kills the child and leaves permanent scars on the mother.

    Violence in a society is never tamed by violent acts targeting the innocent. Never.

    Abortion in a community fuels violence. Every time. More abortions, more violence.

    We have to learn that the unborn are the most defenceless in our society. We reap and awful harvest when we condone abortion.

  43. james mcdonald


    Turns out we agree on quite a lot. (And I was very careful with my choice of Aquinas statement; that one is timeless, while others would cause readers to recoil or laugh out loud if quoted today.)

    1. Abortion is not the same as murder.

    2. A woman should be in a position to exercise her own free will, even if there is a right and a wrong choice to make with that free will.

    And of course it’s no picnic for the woman, but that part of it is a long way out of our bailiwick, since you and I between us don’t have so much as a single womb. It’s for women to teach each other about that. I won’t debate on anything to do with how tough it is for the woman, Liz is right: I have no idea.

    Also as you say, the question of when ensoulment takes place (depends what century you read from) differs from the question of tolerating abortion, which has almost (but not quite) been consistently, No. (JP slightly oversimplified when he said it was consistent.) Which is why it wasn’t always considered exactly murder.

    The following passage (Evangelum Vitae 4) gives some hint of what I referred to re the bigger picture. He’s talking here about all sorts of things which cheapen or degrade human life, including use of lethal force by governments and various forms of slavery, not just abortion and contraception:

    “… The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.”

    See, his concern is to eliminate all moral ambiguity. No grey areas. No giving an inch. Just a few years earlier the Soviets were still incarcerating some Catholics in “mental hospitals” for the disease of believing in their religion. In times like that, people need a strong rallying point, they need absolute black-and-white clarity on what’s wrong and what’s right, and that’s what he gave them.

    (And unfortunately … this goes against my argument but in all honesty, JP did use the word “murder” to describe abortion.)

    But as we return to a time of peace, it is a time for governments to drop all the martial law stuff, soldiers to put down their arms, and so on, and for some of the more complex questions to be dusted off and given a fresh review in the light of new knowledge.

    Now you bring up the business of artificial insemination, and you say the crime is to create it rather than to destroy it. I gather your point is that the critical time when a human aquires the right to life is when the full genetic identity springs into being.

    But that’s not necessarily so. It could be before then. Consider Psalm 139

    My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place.
    When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

    your eyes saw my unformed body.
    All the days ordained for me
    were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

    The depths of the earth? May be a metaphor for the womb, maybe not.

    But as I said before, this coming into being is not as simple as being infused with some supernatural “soul”, not any more. At some point God develops an interest in this person, and is capable of resurrecting him/her if she’s for everlasting life, or disposing of him in a very final way if not.

    Where we disagree, is when that point is. You equate the state of the unborn with your own state under anaesthetic. But to me, there’s a big difference. You have a life history that’s shared with others, to borrow a term from business you’re a “going concern”. I don’t expect to convince you on this point. A foetus in the womb, not yet even knowing that it exists? An embryo frozen in storage, which does not even have a nervous system yet, let alone a brain? No, I don’t think so.

    But if the loss of a pure genetic identity is the same as the death of a person, how can the loss of an egg–half an identity, waiting for the other half to come and complete her, such a short time before her time is up and she’s flushed out in the next period, never to have another chance–how is that so much different?

  44. Martin Shanahan

    Good evening James.

    Thank you for the time and trouble you have taken across this discussion and in particular your most recent post.

    The Psalms give much comfort. Some years ago I worked with a talented individual who worked really hard to end the scourge of abortion. She insisted that her grandchildren would hear the word abortion and ask what did it mean.

    Is it really only 150 years back to the Dred Scott decision of the US Supreme Court that held African Americans were not people.

    Is that not precisely what we do as a community when we hold that unborn children are not entitled to the protection of the law – in fact they are not supported by the community.What a slap in the face for women.

    There are many oddities in our legislative system: in some States it is an offence to cause physical harm to an unborn child – it is an offence to kick a pregnant woman and harm or kill the child in utero. However this same law stipulates that killing an unborn child by means of a medical procedure or administration of a chemical / pharmaceutical is not caught by this law.

    What is this – we are schizophrenic if we believe this is rational public policy.

    Violence can be physical. It can be emotional. It may include bullying leaving no physical scars but great mental ones.

    The science of embryology tells us that human life begins at conception. The medical textbooks are explicit. The IVF specialists know that sperm and ova left alone will never do anything. But together there is an extraordinary development – it starts in the uterus and continues throughout life.

    There is potentiality in sperm and ova. There is actuality in their fusion.

    It is way too simplistic to think of an embryo as pure genetic identity.



  45. james mcdonald

    Martin. I think we agreed on much but not all. Life is precious, women deal with some pretty tough stuff, laws are not always just.

    Women, unlike us, have a limited number of shots at creating a life. The choices involved are simple for some, complex for others, but always a sacred right of the woman concerned. The physical cost of childbirth, sometimes debilitating and until recently, often fatal; the drain on resources and time for years afterwards; the lost opportunities … when a woman gets pregnant from a rape she’s in danger of losing her chance ever to have a child by a father of her choice. That may be the most important choice she can ever make and it’s not a choice that society should ever take from her.

    If you’re right and humanity springs into being at that fusing in the moment of conception, then the foetus’ right to survive will trump all but a mortal threat to the mother, and anything I say in defence of choice will be a defence of killing and morally unsupportable.

    But if you’re wrong and it’s not that simple, if humanity is a thing that grows slowly and gradually into being–which I believe it is–then it’s beyond our wisdom to lay down hard and fast rules, or to know what really will be the consequences of a choice that a woman makes. If for some reason she wants to abort but that’s prohibited, who knows if somewhere down the track another child misses out on existence, since the mother only has a limited number of shots at bearing a child? We never really know.

    There’s a lot written in this thread. Some entries had to wait several hours for online moderating. All of them are worth reading. This excerpt from one of Liz’ pieces takes a lot of thinking about:

    “Sadly, I also experienced a miscarriage at 14 weeks. It was like labour, went on for hours and was painful, traumatic and very sad. I don’t recall anyone suggesting that there be some service or memorial. I then went on to have 3 beautiful children. There’s no way that experience was in any way a future life. Such a marked difference between that foetus and my babies born at full term.”

    You can have all the ultrasounds you like, identify the ears and eyes and hands and say look it’s human, it’s still a mystery what’s going on there or exactly what the emotional relationship is between mother and not-yet-child.

    Who really knows?

  46. Liz45

    Martin, you talk absolute nonsense. An embyo and a foetus beyond a certain time can not live outside the womb. It is ludicrous to suggest that they have ‘life’. They can’t survive (in most cases) on their own – therefore they can’t be classified as life, as in the sense of the mother or other siblings who are alive.

    The violence in our society, indeed the world, is mostly caused by men. 80% of the world’s refugees are women. Women keep economies going around the world. Women only receive 65-85% of men’s wages. Most of the world’s actual wars or warlike environments(like the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka)are caused and perpetrated by men. Almost all the proclomations about wars have been made by men. In short, the ones responsible for creating a dangerous and horrific world are men!
    What do you do about that?

    May I suggest that you sort this out, stop it; spread the message about violence, no matter whether it’s state sponsored or caused by individuals. Anything less is gross hypocrisy!

    I told a small part of my own personal experience for one good reason – there are millions of women in this country, and sadly, too many can relate to my experiences and too many others are dead! Address this component of women’s reality, and show me what’s been done to combat it. While ever there is a male patriarchal and patronising and abusive environment, the reality of women choosing abortion will grow. This is not the entire solution, but it would be a damned good start!

    When you combine this with a good educational program in the schools, coupled with safe, economic and effective contraception, and the abortion numbers would drop. I suggest, that govts like half the population to be in anguish as it helps them dominate the landscape with their own agendas. Women are expendable in their view.

  47. SBH

    It might work better Martin, if you were to say ‘I believe’ or ‘in my view’ or some such. I don’t want my human life protected till it’s natural death. I want to be able to choose when I die rather but that’s just my view. did you protest as long and loud about Iraqi children (or men and women for that matter). Did their lives not deserve protection?

    And please don’t use science to buttress your arguments. Your objection is based on faith and you would be dishonest or misinformed if you don’t agree that faith presupposes the revelation of a mystery unfathomable to human minds alone. Science requires evidence faith abjures it.

  48. Martin Shanahan


    I reject your assertion that an embryo or a foetus somehow is not a life. The medical texts used by undergraduate medicos are quite clear on this. Embryologists kn ow they deal with a living entity. IVF specialists know that the embryos they cultivate are alive. Your distinction between unlife embryos/foetus and live born / or soon to be born children is a completely artificial construct. A sperm and an ova grow into nothing – once fused the fused entity bursts into activity. This is life.

    It doesn’t matter who causes the violence, there is no excuse for it. Violence has a most unhappy habit of begetting violence.

    Do you deny that abortion is a violent action? I see no tiny ounce of recognition that the unborn child has any rights at all – does that mean you support partial birth abortion?

    Women have the greatest role of all to play in nurturing the young. I am very conscious that the relationship my children have with their mother is qualitatively different from the one they have with me.

    Help end violence against women by ending the violence wreaked in the womb by abortion.

    I cannot comprehend the sense of your cry for more sex education. This society’s children have so much sex education that they almost cringe when the topic is raised again. This education is then expanded by the huge array of explicit programs broadcast at quite early times let alone what is available on radio and in the music that is downloaded to their music players and listened to through head phone with the volume up loud.

    Intriguing – the more we contracept, the more we abort. Part of that reason is that contraception strikes at the heart of the man-woman relationship. As a community we need this parent relationship to be strong. We can aid that by educating couples to be completely open in their relationship – this is done in part by showing how a rejection of barriers between them opens hearts and minds.


    I do not think you are on strong ground in suggesting that life begins at some point on the continuum of human life. If you play along that line you must address the question “why this point rather than that point”. I do believe it makes much more sense to acknowledge that there is a starting point and an ending point – the starting point is when the growth process commences. I think that US President Obama faltered when responding to a question about abortion during the election campaign that it was above his pay grade – this from a guy who has a 100% NARAL certified voting record. This guy even supports the awful partial birth abortions.

    You and I both have obligations to identify and explain the reasons why abortion is never permissible.

    Everyone reading this thread must understand that the violence that is often pushing mothers to abort cannot be reversed unless we simultaneously stop the violence of abortion.

    Best wishes,


  49. SBH

    the sperm and the ova are also alive Martin but they don’t have rights

  50. james mcdonald

    Martin, just before I call it a night …

    “I do not think you are on strong ground in suggesting that life begins at some point on the continuum of human life.”
    Precisely not what I suggest. I suggest the feotus becomes a human gradually, not at any ‘point’.

    “You and I both have obligations to identify and explain the reasons why abortion is never permissible.”

    I’m sorry if I’ve caused you to get the wrong impression about my own obligations, but I did say earlier in this thread that I am not a Catholic.
    Like others here, I was brought up Catholic, and I asked lots of questions, and eventually had my eyes opened to the theological inquiry that goes on and that feeds into doctrine. Much more sophisticated and enlightened than I had thought. Not full of logical holes and contradictions like the readers-digest version used for general guidance. But the Church, as I’ve said, is very careful in what it passes on to the flock because it doesn’t want to confuse them.
    I’m a creature of the age of reason. My basis for arguing that a feotus becomes human gradually is a very strong basis: reason.

    “… the violence that is often pushing mothers to abort …”

    If you mean the domestic violence Liz talked about at 6:26pm Sydney time (5:56pm Adelaide), banning abortion won’t end that violence, it will increase it. Men who are that psychopathic and who don’t want a kid will beat their wives into miscarrying and then go have themselves a beer, even more violently so if there is no legal abortion they can coerce her into. You want to deal with that violence, you need mandatory-charging domestic violence policies for the police (like we have in NSW), put the perpetrators in prison and emancipate the wives into feeling secure on their own. Give them a chance to go find someone else without being murdered for it.

    Another sort of violence–family shame–which used to push mothers to abort has been more or less ended in this country. Not all families are as gentle and understanding as yours. That sort of coercion was ended decades ago, by the same feminist movement that now forms the “Pro Choice” lobby and seeks to finish the job.

    “Pro Choice”, it goes both ways. It means a woman might do wrong or she might do right but it is her body and her free will. By all means point out the morals according to your faith, but in the end each of us must stand aside and remember that our moral duty is how we lead our own lives, not someone else’s.

  51. SBH

    Anyway, back to the topic. Nothing above answers the title question with an unequivocal yes or no. Once again the debate has been derailed by a discussion about rights of the foetus.

  52. Liz45

    Martin, It’s obvioius to me that there is not enough of the right sort of education. Do young people really understand the intricacies of conceiving a child. What emphasis does the education take? I’ve heard some female journalists assert, that young women don’t understand their cycle, or know when and how it works? There is also not enough education about men and boys attitudes to women, to violence and their engaging in it; about respect for others, about respect for women and nurturing children. It’s obvious that this area of education is close to non-existent, otherwise, why is there still so much violence? How does it change? From before birth I suggest. Parents also have ingrained prejudices about what is ‘normal’ for both boy and girl children. There needs to be more education about this.

    You only have to listen to the excuses and protestations over sports ‘men'(use that word selectively) when footballers engage in aggressive, arrogant and violent ways towards women and girls. what I find most disturbing is the attitudes of the supporters who make excuses or say ‘he’s a nice young man, but has too much money or???’
    This violence is not an outcome of abortion, it’s the outcome of perceptions of what it takes to be male, and the ‘damned whore and god’s police’ attitude to women. In fact, how often do the supporters and the media turn on the victim, even to one instance of digging up dirt on her father? This is to do with the overall attitude. Boys will be boys, and girls shouldn’t spoil their careers by going to the police when they’re gang raped?

    As far as the procedure for a termination – it’s the same as a D &C for other gynaecological reasons. I had one to help me conceive my last child, so it’s done for positive reasons too. I understand that the Medicare number is the same for both, so where the numbers come from I don’t know. Also, every foetus has a responsible male involved, so I’d suggest that you take that sex apart for their obvious lack of responsibility, as frankly, I get sick to death of women being labelled as ‘economic floozies’ who have abortions on a whim. This is not so in the overwhelming number of cases, and perhaps you could look at our society’s attitudes to women and do some reading in order to understand the situation outside your own life’s experiences. It would be great if every woman lived your idealic life – but in this country and around the world, women are still treated as though our needs, thoughts and realities are something to be tolerated rather than respected.

    The Howard Govt turned back the clock on women’s issues; I suggest you read ‘The End of Equality’ by Anne Summers. I was shocked! There was our No 1 misogynist, Howard for too many years. He didn’t give a damn about pregnant women either. The woman from China, the woman who had her baby on an asylum boat, the women who were taxed more for going back into the workforce, WorstChoices and time out for men to care for their pregnant partner or to be at the birth of their child, or to be with her when she miscarried – too many were bullied with threats of the sack. Howard’s policies allowed employers, (possibly god fearing men all)to treat workers as commodities; to use Howard’s own philosophy, that they should be able to run their businesses all day every day. I’d add ‘for the meanest pay he could legislate for’!He helped create the economic environment of this country, and it’ll take some years to reverse it. I’m sure he continues to attend his church each Sunday too! He also voted against RU 486 being the responsibility of the now authority, rather than have Tony Abbott in charge! YUK!

    In short, your ‘pat’ comments are neither helpful nor compassionate. You have an idealic lifesyle yourself, and you gauge and judge others from this privileged position. Sadly, that is not other peoples’ reality. Sadly, women can die from pregnancy and childbirth, and I find it contradictory of the Catholic church to say, that the life of the unborn must take precedence over the woman, who probably has other children to mother like I did, and who also has a right to live. This just reinforces the reality, that the church has a revolting attitude to women! Women know it, that’s why the overwhelming majority assert, that the churches/governments/parliaments should butt out of these issues and let women decide! Dying in childbirth is not always a ‘natural’ death for the mother, as these days it can be avoided. Most of the coronial reports I’ve heard have contained strong messages of how to avoid the neglect, bad practice or some other avoidable factor/s. Too many times, the little ones are denied the love of their mum due to bad or neglectful procedures.

    Women are more than the ‘rent a womb’ that the C Church advocates.

  53. Martin Shanahan

    It is never ethical to let women die (physically or mentally) therefore halt the violence done to women by invading their bodies to kill an unborn child – and roughly half of those killed by abortion are female too. Abortion increases rates of depression in women post-abortion substantially. Help save women from mental illness by ending the epidemic of abortion.

  54. Martin Shanahan

    SBH, the sperm and ova are living tissue but are certainly not separately representative an individual human being. Sperm and ova are to be treated with the same dignity as any part of human tissue. Once fused then we have something uniquely different.

  55. Aphra

    As the mother of a mere one, and one who was naturally conceived, but whose mother had been pregnant four times with three devastating conclusions, explain to me why le bon Dieu decided, without consulting me, to terminate the ‘lives’ of my earlier ‘fusions’.

  56. Liz45

    MARTIN – If a woman gives consent to the surgical or medical procedure of a termination, there’s no ‘violent invasion’? That is just hysterical emotional nonsense. I support terminations done as early as possible(at or about 7 weeks, as I understand it). However, the case in NSW as covered last weekend by the Sydney Morning Herald was a disgrace. A woman was forced to wait another week for her then dead foetus to be ‘born’. She was denied a termination, even though it was evident, that her baby was so deformed as to not have any hope of survival outside the womb – it died in the womb.

    As I indicated earlier, there is evidence that woman are more likely to suffer from depression post abortion, if there’s a history of domestic violence. This indicates, that women are more likely to suffer from depression if they’ve been raped(either by incest or some other means) or bashed prior to and just preceding the abortion. The mental state of women is usually the fault of the perpetrator who she may love or should be the one to protect her. It’s this horrific abuse of trust and sanctuary that is so destructive and can cause emotional and mental anguish for years after – I know from personal experience. My ex threatened me 6 yrs ago if I ‘told of my experiences’ – he could ‘talk to people’???

    SBH – These aspects that I’ve covered are relevant to the incidents of women having abortions. I’ve never had to make that decision, thankfully, but that was more due to my strength via demanding my rights than any intervention offered by the medical profession or my husband, or indeed my ‘first’ family. A chamber magistrate told me to “go home, cook his favourite meal and be a good wife’? I was let down by both families, the police and the judiciary via this man. This is many women’s realities. These are just some of the reasons why women choose abortion. The numbers will decrease when men are either educated or made to be accountable for their violence. Sadly, these numbers are not waning. I totally reject the view, that it’s abortion that perpetuates more violence – the opposite is the reality. I’m sick of the blame game against women – let’s men off the hook, to at best be damned lazy and apathetic or to be judgemental.

    As a woman who was in a position to counsel and support many women in a different aspect of life, I found, that whenever there are 4-6 women in an atomosphere of trust and solidarity, at least 2 of them will disclose, that they’ve been physically or sexually abused – or both! If men are really concerned about the numbers of terminations, they should acquaint themselves with these realities, and then actively campaign against their sex re this horrific situation. Anything less is just patronising lip service! Women are more than wombs – we’re intelligent, caring and competent people who should not have to demand to live in safety in a country as bountiful as this one.

    In the last 36 hours, this has been just a miniscule of crimes of violence that I’ve heard of; a priest pleads not guilty to ? number of sexual abuse incidents against students at a school in NSW; a father comments on the light sentences given to 3 young men who bashed his son to death; a man has been charged with 14 counts of rape on the north shore of Sydney; an Irish visitor dies after being ‘king hit’ on a street(one punch and he fell and hit his head); a politician in Tasmania faces charges in relation to sexual abuse of a young girl of 12; the body of a woman is found in a barrell in NSW(somewhere). That’s only the ones that hit the news, that I heard of. There’s at least one gang rape in every state in this country every weekend. At least 180,000 women are sexually assaulted each year; only 10-15% will be reported to police, and only a small number get to court and a smaller number are convicted. How do these numbers tally with the numbers of abortions each year. My friend sees too many, and in those cases the foetus must be kept for DNA purposes? Can you imagine that horror?

    I should also point to aboriginal women, of whom 40% of them(as opposed to 20-25% of non-indigenous women) are or will be abused in their lifetime. It’s impossible to argue that this sad situation is not connected to racism, sexism, disadvantage and many other areas of life that shamefully still permeate this country. It is a disgrace and I feel ashamed of it. No wonder they die so young! Fancy living this horror every day. It is also shameful, that the mortality rate of aboriginal babies in this country is very high. This should not be so – it’s the fault of too many successive govts of the 3 levels, whose policies have been patronising, racist and patriarchal.

    Women are still doing 75-80% of domestic duties; women are usually the ones to care for aged parents(both sides) and women are all too frequently left to care for children with mild to severe physical or intellectual disabilities. It seems to me, that too many men cop out, and then they start another family. These women are almost driven mad from exhaustion and emotional fatigue. Fix that up too!

    The feelings and motivations of women are more than just brain tissue. We’re more than that, but most of the people opposed to their right to choose only concentrate on That aspect – their wombs! How gross is that! There is no excuse in this country for such attitudes, but it’s fostered consistently by the media, most of them who make editorial decisions are men. The so-called women’s magazines are also responsible, for their idealistic representations of pregnancy and birth, not to mention their pre-occupation with ‘after birth bumps’? This puts too much of an unrealistic strain on young women. The reality is, that this weight usually sorts itself out with breast feeding and the busy and active life required with a new baby. Incidently, the age of women who make up most of those who have an abortion are women in the 25-39 age group, and many of those already have a child or children.

    Incidently, I’ve never stated before, but I’m a ‘baby masher’ from way back. I can’t see a baby without smiling. All kids have this effect on me, so you can imagine how I feel about my kids and grand kids. I’m sure my ex resented my love for my babies, but that’s his tough luck! I’d like every child to be welcomed and loved, but sadly that’s not always possible. I don’t judge other womens’ decisions. I’ve been actively involved in empowering women and their choices for about 30 years. We’re not there yet!

  57. Liz45

    My final thoughts, as I think I’m just repeating myself.

    I think it’s imperative that;
    People realise, that it’s the ingrained violence and threat of violence in women’s lives that brings about pregnancies of which they feel unable to see through.
    Counselling for survivors of domestic violence should be paid for by Medicare.
    Perpetrators of DV should be forced to leave the home/unit/flat etc, not the women and kids. This only leads to impoverishment, change of schools etc and trauma on top of trauma.
    (It’s estimated that in 2010 the cost of DV will be about $13 billion – shameful!
    The Rudd govt has promised over $40 million to attempt to lessen this, but I don’t know how it will be spent?)
    Ads for White Ribbon Day and an awareness program should start on November 1st??
    All laws in Australia re DV should be the same.
    There should be advertising campaigns on TV and the rest of the media re awareness of DV, the rights of women and kids, and giving women the confidence to speak out.
    There should be more counsellors and women’s health centres, refuges and other supportive infrastructure – eg courts, more education for police – male and female, and the removal of the stereotypes and blaming the victim mentality.
    In my area, a woman suffering DV has to wait for up to 3 months for counselling.
    (Every time there’s a heightened media awareness about DV, the incidence of women speaking out increases, but sadly, this only leads to more cases of abuse, as the perpetrators increase their abuse, and the refuges and counselling services can’t cope with the demand. – more women get bashed, and more women & kids die?)

    There are only 2 refuges in an area designated as covering 2 cities – ridiculous!
    Imagine if men in their 30’s, wearing business suits were being bashed on a daily basis, or one was murdered every 10 days – that’s the reality of DV.

    Most importantly, if the violence or threat of violence is removed from womens’ lives, and male/female relationshiips were equal and non-threatening, I predict that the numbers of women having terminations would be reduced.

    Also, if media education placed equal responsibility on men, their fertility, and an obligation to be responsible in their sex lives, the problem would be ‘half solved’.
    Too many men leave such things to women, and blithely go around ‘planting their seed’ with impunity, and then walk away. Not good enough!

    I’ve laid out my reasons for supporting women’s choices re their fertility. I reject the view that it’s abortion that creates more violence, rather, that in a male dominated world, the men perpetuate the violence, and then want to offload their shameful behaviour on women. I won’t buy it!

  58. SBH

    Martin, you really need to clarify that this is merely your belief and your belief not only has no scientific foundation but by definition exists in the absence of proof. Your extraordinary statement about the dangers of contraception is a case in point. This view point is killing millions the world over but the as APHRA points out your god is cavalier with the lives of his creations.

    You and they believe abortion is a mortal sin which will damn the mother and any who participate to hell. By your values this is a terrible thing to be fought against. All the rest of the argument is jesuitical obfuscation.

    You think a foetus has a soul, I don’t. I think the doctors and anti-abortionists who rage against abortion consider the life of a women less important than her ‘soul’ and their consciences. They believe that there are many circumstances where it is ethical to let women die. I wish they’d stop hiding behind concern for the mothers health or the life of the unborn.

  59. james mcdonald

    You’re right SBH, we’ve gone a long way from the discussion on conscientious objectors and their religious rights.

    I’m responsible for that digression; I invited Martin to debate the spiritual aspects because he was already here and because when a Catholic starts preaching, some people out there get so terrified of the whole hell-and-damnation thing that the question of their rights become irrelevant.

    I think we’ve done that whole side of things, I’ve got nothing more to add. And Martin we seem to be going in circles now. So maybe you and I can both withdraw as we have both made our points loud and clear.

    The original question was in response to Sinclair Davidson’s earlier article, and it is: how important are religious rights such as conscientious objection, and can they trump any rights of the patient (including survival) or indeed the doctor’s duty of care. Because Prof Davidson claimed that Victorian laws were breaching doctors’ right of religious expression.

    But Leslie answered her own question in the article, before we ever got started on it.

    “However important is religious freedom, it does not trump other rights.”

    From the libertarian point of view is that few liberties are absolute. My liberties are protected to the extent that I don’t use my liberties to go trample someone else’s liberties. Obviously if I had an unlimited right of religious liberty, and if I was an Odin worshipper, I would be free to sacrifice other humans and hang them on a big tree. Clearly that would be an abuse of my religious liberty. Therefore religious liberties, like most liberties, are not absolute.

    The question is, are there any liberties that should be protected absolutely?

  60. Martin Shanahan

    SBH, my comment about contraception referred to the danger of putting something between the metaphysical relationship of man and woman in marriage.

    APHRA, Liz45, SBH and James, thank you for the gentility of this discussion. I have very much appreciated your observations and especially the time you have put into developing the various threads we have canvassed. I am grateful for the open-ness as we have shared parts of our story.

    Yes we have strayed from the initial thoughts of Leslie. But to good value.

    I would like to assert an absolute liberty in relation to life. I can surrender that liberty though. I surrender my right to life (I tried to think of another way to express that, I am sorry as I appreciate it may jar) when I damage another’s life.

    It is appropriate to establish principles by which a society is ordered. It is probable that members of that society or community will behave less than perfectly. They may still seek to conform their behaviour to the ideal.

    Again, thank you – this is the first time in a very long time that I have engaged in this sort of discussion. For many, many years I have been treated for depression and pretended to hide the manic periods usually quite unsuccessfully. I was diagnosed as having bipolar in 2008 and my treatment regime was radically altered. That I can contribute to a discussion such as this is an indicator of improvement. I am grateful for the opportunity you provided to challenge my beliefs.

    Again, peace.

  61. james mcdonald

    All peace to you and your family, Martin. You’ve listened as well as spoken and that distinguishes you from the loony religious right which sometimes gets on these threads.

    You’ve also offered a timely reminder that in any discussion of liberties, the unborn child’s liberties must be considered. Where opinions differ is on when the unborn child acquires those liberties: your position is that this is at the moment of conception.

    Even if those liberties do begin at the moment of conception, Cannard is still right and Davidson is still wrong. Because in that case, the imperative to prevent abortion would have its basis in the unborn child’s liberties, not in the doctor’s liberty of religious expression which (as the Odin-worshipper example shows) cannot be absolute.

  62. james mcdonald

    Sorry there I go with misspelling names again. I meant Cannold is right.

  63. Liz45

    Best wishes everyone. Take care Martin and stay well. Thank you James for having insight into the realities of life from a woman’s perspective.
    Leslie, keep on supporting the right of women to make their own decisions re their fertility. And to pointing out that a women’s right to life should be paramount. It should be between herself and her doctor, and hopefully a loving partner!

  64. John james

    The proposition that an unborn child has to be killed to protect a woman right to life, in this day and age, with 1000gms prems doing well and viability established at 23-24 weeks, is nonsense.
    The Victorian legislation allows abortion at any stage for any reason ( or no reason ). It is appalling.
    We have babies in neonatal nurseries younger that the babies being killed and Cannold is on the record as supporting this proposition.
    Abortion is neither therapeutic nor just.

  65. Liz45

    JOHN JAMES – For goodness sake! have you read all of the other comments? You’re just showing your ignorance. There’s one major condition that can cause the death of the mother, and its pre-ecclampia. I had it years ago. As much as I’d like to think otherwise, it is still a threat. There are other situations that can be threatening to a woman’s life. Being diagnosed with some forms of cancer, particularly some aggressive forms of breast cancer is another threat to women. What is it now, 7 women a day diagnosed with breast cancer? You’re making these grand sweeping statements, when you obviously don’t know any medical circumstances pertaining to pregnancy at all. How many pregnant women do you know? How many of them have taken you into their confidence re their life’s experiences? Not too many I suspect, with your attitude. My understanding of the changes to Victorial Legislation, is that there still are precautions and guidelines etc. What would you legislate? Locking women up who are pregnant? And then what? Or, would you have us go back to the ‘good old days’ of the 60’s and beyond?

    In the US, the second biggest threat to a pregnant woman’s life(after pregnancy complications) is homicide. It’s a researched fact, that many women seek a termination due to the violence of their partner/husband. Also, women who are abused while pregnant are more likely to engage in actions injurious to their health, such as smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, self harm and sadly, termination.

    Quite frankly, I’ve had it up to here, with men’s patriarchal and misogynist attitudes to women in general, and their almost total ignorance of the many stresses they’ve put up with prior to being pregnant. 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their life time. 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence. Of the number of women who’ve been abused, a large number experienced this for the first time while pregnant. Too many women become pregnant while in a relationship. I’ve heard midwives assert, that they’ve seen work boot marks on a pregnant woman’s belly? If you take the stats into account, there’s a lot of women out there who’ve been abused and had to live their lives in psychological pain. There are men who force their partner to have an abortion – it’s called having control. There are not enough refugees, and too many women would like to leave a violent relationship but are forced to stay due to economical hardship, and dependancy on the perpetrator(financial and social).

    Since whenever?? women have sought abortion when circumstances mean, that for them they are not able to mother at that time. No woman wants to have an abortion. Women make up the most impoverished peoples on the planet; they are the most likely to be effected by man made or climate catastrophes, and they comprise over 70% of the world’s refugees. There are a myriad of reasons why women seek an abortion, and I don’t know of one woman who’s made that decision without a lot of soul searching and heartache.

    It would be a pleasant change if men like you would preach to your own sex re their responsible attitude to their own sexual practices. If all men insisted on using a condom( was sterilized if not wanting children – at all, ever) if they don’t want to cause an unwanted pregnancy, the numbers of women being forced into one would be markedly decreased.

    You’ll never have to make this decision. You can never be pregnant; you have no idea of the medical, psychological, financial and other reasons confronting women who find out that they’re pregnant. If you want to reduce the numbers, you could commit to stamping out violence towards women and kids, and speak out to your male friends and family members re the horrific toll your sex is placing on women in your country.

    I bet you’ve never read a biography about women who’ve been abused from child to well into their adult years – by different men usually. And no, I’m not a man hater, I’m just fed up with people like you having a rant about something you know little or nothing about, and please don’t tell me you’ve been a witness at t birth, because that is only part of the issue – you haven’t been pregnant and had your life at risk – I have! Although I realized years later just how serious my condition was. I also had morning sickness with my first 2 pregnancies that lasted almost 9 months. I put it to you, that most men would be seeking a termination if they put up with just a miniscule of some women, who try to have a relationship, run a home and look after other children.

    The Medicare claim number for abortion is the same for a D & C as I understand it. So, there’s no real records of the numbers, unless people are betraying patient confidentiality. You can help change our world, from male control and violence, and then maybe, the numbers of women feeling that termination is their only viable choice should decrease. You could also change our world re attitudes to kids/adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, and ask yourself, why do so many women who are caring for these kids, have to do it alone. Too many men just leave – can’t cope! The women are almost like robots from sheer physical and emotional exhaustion. Start working on that one too!

    If you just want to sit on your bum and criticize women, or make grandiose comments, then leave women alone to have the right to make their own decisions – preferably with a loving partner and their doctor – but again, too many men walk away. We’re intelligent and competent people, who given all the facts can make an appropriate decision to suit our particular circumstances.

    As I’ve stated earlier, I’ve had a miscarriage at 14 weeks, and that foetus in no way resembled the 3 beautiful babies I had at full term. They are adults now, and I have grand children. The other facet of our society that women object to,(I certainly do) is too many in the medical profession take over their pregnancies, and treat them as a medical ‘problem’ to treat. Even the act of giving birth is removed from us. The one thing(3 times) I’ve done by myself was to give birth to my own kids. This is taken away by the ‘the doctor delivered’ – he or she bloody well did not – I did! See how you lot manipulate and control. The whole birthing situation is treated like another capitalist commodity – money for providing a service, and how much can we(doctors etc) make?

  66. james mcdonald

    Liz: Given your information about abortion as a result of, or escape from, domestic violence … I wonder how many pregnancies would be saved compared to those aborted if freedom of safety and choice were really available to all women?

    Put another way, “pro choice” is often taken to be just a euphemism for open season on unborn babies. But as I’ve tried to point out earlier, it’s more that that. It’s freedom for a woman to …

    A) have the child, even when others want her to abort (eg. psychopathic husband, ashamed family)
    B) shore up limited capacity for having and rearing children (eg. the foetus is known to be severely impaired)
    C) choose the father of her child (eg. rape victims)
    D) save her own health (potentially fatal complications)

    A lot of your points about violence have to do with point (A) and are about saving pregnancies, not terminating them. That’s about “choice” too, but I haven’t heard or read a whole lot of acknowledgement of this, either in this thread or elsewhere.

    Do you think the “pro choice” movement has a bit of an image problem, that leads to being seen as a license to kill rather than a license to save?

  67. Martin Shanahan

    As we seek perfect answers in an imperfect world, it remains clear that we must work within guidelines (or principles or laws if you prefer).

    Leslie’s article is titled “can it ever be ethical to let women die”. That’s quite misleading and I suspect constructed to facilitate a false answer. The obvious answer is no or never or of course not. That answer is way too glib.

    The implication of your question some professionals (they have ethics it seems and are doctors) choose to let women die (presumably from consequences of their pregnancy).

    Well where is the evidence for this Leslie – what provokes the question – or is this just a rhetorical question to facilitate a discussion. That is not your form.

    The hidden agenda of Cannold is to mask the reality that the doctor has to care for two patients, the mother and the child.

    Now Liz45 would have us believe that many mothers are harmed during pregnancy by the treatment that their doctors, their families or the Catholic Church fail to provide. I do not argue that many evil things are not done to women while they are pregnant or in the course of them being pregnant. I do insist that the total number of women who face this level of violence is remarkably smaller than the total numbers of women whose children are aborted every year.

    The Medicare data for abortions performed in Australia has been produced to the Senate annually for decades. It is pretty much without question. And we are talking in the tens of thousands.

    Abortion isn’t healthcare because killing isn’t healing.

    It is essential to remember that abortion occurs when the direct intended consequence of a procedure or the administration of a chemical or pharmaceutical is the killing of the unborn child.

    Cannold cannot escape the reality that she cares for only one person.

    We prefer a society where the healthcare and allied professionals care for two accepting the fundamental non-negotiable principle: first, do no harm.

    Best wishes,


  68. Liz45

    Look James and Martin. I really don’t want to go over all of this again, James. Have you read all of my other posts, and others too? The issue is, that girls are or can be abused from the time they’re very young. 1 in 4 will be sexually abused by 18. Have you any perception of what devastating effects that has on a person. Then, they may also be or have been in an abusive sexual relationship, or incest or rape. Then, there’s not just the neglect of all areas you mentioned Martin, there’s the deliberate abuse of the church, the doctors, society, men’s domination of all of our areas of life – the law, the judicial system, only about 60% of male earnings. Then in many areas of women’s lives there’s poverty, unemployment – a myriad of events, issues, abuses, sexism etc. Women are not just a uterus. When a woman is pregnant, she doesn’t miraculously have those other tiers or veils removed from her psyche. You are both men – you have not a shred of insight into these aspects. You have tunnel vision. All you see is abortion – women killing – right-wrong-full stop! You’ve not shown me any intention or inclination to educate yourselves. You just chant the same lines, and frankly it makes me really angry – like I am now!

    I don’t know how old you both are, but I’m 64. My eldest child is almost 46 and my youngest nearly 41. I have grand children. I’ve heard more accounts of womens’ lives than you’ve both had hot dinners. I know the impacts on womens’ lives, because I’ve experienced many of these things. I must say, that the most negative impacts were all done by men. Now, be good boys and go and do some reading, about reality, not the catholic church’s misogynist, arrogant, patriarchal nonsense that has nought to do with reality. If you’re really concerned, go out and start championing a better life for the present and future mothers of this country – start with your mates, your sons, fathers, brothers and friends and get on with changeing this stinking rot that damages too many wonderful women. If you’re really fair dinkum, that’s what you’d do, but I suggest you’re not!

    Remember the most important concept. Women do not want to have abortions. I’ll repeat it so you get it. Women DO NOT WANT to have abortions. OK! The ‘need’ is usually external forces that have been present for a long time, a short time, yesterday or somewhere in between. If you spend more time trying to stop the BS facing women, those so-called ‘figures’ would be half the number and reducing. Start working!

    Now, I’ve been out today with a ‘product’ of some bastard’s brutality – she has an intellectual disability because of it! I usually feel pretty pissed off when I get home, after being with a human being who was strong, competent, capable, a mother, a woman with many talents who travelled the world because of her abilities etc. If this isn’t bad enough, this germ denied her the right to see or have contact with her kids – I’m trying to fix that too! It’s my privilege to promote, protect and defend her in every way I can. What have either of you done today. I support the question Leslie asked, and I support the view, that it’s not ethical to kill a woman in order to save a maybe viable child.

    Now, I’m DONE, as the yanks would say!

  69. Liz45

    MARTIN – ” I do insist that the total number of women who face this level of violence is remarkably smaller than the total numbers of women whose children are aborted every year.”

    As I’ve stated before; 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 18. (1 in 5 boys too I understand – most if not all abusers are male).1 in 4 women are victimes/survivors of DV. A woman is murdered every 10 days in this country. Only 10% of sexual assaults are reported; only 10% of those make it to court, and a smaller number get a conviction. 1 in3 women will be abused in their lifetime, and this also includes older women. There’s a strong link between depression and a woman’s request to seek a termination, and there’s evidence that where there’s violence, a woman is more likely to abort. These figures can be accessed from various quarters – I have an information booklet from the NSW Health Dept; there are stats on the ABS, the Police Reports of each state & territory, and then there’s the Justice Commission or some such department. Go on the White Ribbon Day website, and put Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault or Sexual Harrassment in your search engine. Go on the Australian Domestic & Family Violence web site too! If you insist on being lazy and not seeking the information, then no wonder you just chant the dogma. I suggest, that perhaps neither of you want to know the reality, as it just might challenge your dogma. I also suggest, that you adopt the “Do no harm” yourself!

  70. Liz45

    JAMES – There’s a post prior to this one where I mistook you for JOHN JAMES. It has not been posted yet, but if it is I apologize in advance. Mistaken identity! Sorry! I’ve had a long but satisfactory day with my friend as alluded to in the post before this. I was pretty angry in it, so maybe that’s why it hasn’t been approved? Can’t have women getting angry now can we? I get so frustrated at the so-called ‘pro-life’ lot! They don’t really give a damn about women – we’re just a (baby)factory to them! Drives me nuts!

  71. james mcdonald

    Happens aaaalll the time

  72. Martin Shanahan

    Liz45, we have to get real about the stats though they are a distraction from the real argument: Parliamentary Library of Australia indicate that the highest rate for domestic violence against women is 5.8% – that is appalling and needs to be tackled – it is definitely not the mythical 25% you assert without foundation. The SA Dept of health stats in year on year reports on incidence of maternal pre-natal and perinatal death also make your position look very sick.

    Domestic violence is abhorrent.

    Exposure to domestic violence does not warrant or justify the conduct of a violent act.

    Abortion is a bit like the death penalty – and quite apart from the death penalty being iniquitous, too many death row inmates are now way too late found to be innocent.

    Same with abortion – go through the supposed medical indicia for abortion, none, not one, is a truthful indicator for abortion. Yes I said truthful. You may assert 1 or 2 – you won’t assert 40,000 in NSW – and when we take those 1 or 2 apart, truth is you turn to good medical care for the solution.

    You claim large numbers of women are depressed. You insist that they have abortions to solve their depressed state. Once more the SA stats do not support.

    Worse, best psychiatric evidence is that depression is a CONTRAindicator to abortion. Depressed. Abort. Serious depression. Check out the data, the epidemiological surveys undertaken by Phillip Ney, all freely available in the Library of Congress, backed by evidence given under oath in trial situations. You abort, your mental health goes through the floor.

    Ney is also a child psychiatrist. His work with children who have had one of their siblings aborted is a chilling reminder that abortion is never just a matter for the mother and maybe her partner. Children in these situations live with the guilt of the survivor syndrome. This is emotional violence wreaked in the name of blind selfishness.

    Violence does not justify the killing of an innocent person. Never. I am yet to hear of an unborn child attacking its mother. There are 2 lives that are of paramount concern – we want to save both and it can be done.

    Get frustrated if you wish at this pro-life lot – but please do not pretend that this pro-life lot is not equally interested in your health as well as that of your unborn child. Indeed, this pro-life lot is desperately trying to help you keep your good physical and mental health.

    Best wishes,


  73. james mcdonald

    Martin, the claim that doing the right thing spiritually will always lead to the happiest result temporally sounds a bit pat to me, and would seem to nullify the reality of any martyrs.

  74. Martin Shanahan

    James I am sorry if I expressed that – wasn’t aware that I had done so.

    As a Catholic, I celebrate at this time a couple of special feast days – yesterday 1 Nov was the feast day we call All Saints – we celebrate the lives and spirituality of people we know have made it to Heaven. We know these people by name. Today 2 Nov we celebrate All Souls Day – we pray for those who have died and we do not know that they are in heaven.

    The Assistant Priest in his homily on Sunday commented that although we know by name thousands of people who are in heaven, we do not know the name of a single person who is in hell, not one. Fascinating.

    There is no perfection on earth, no temporal perfection. We are encouraged to strive for perfection. Contrast the commandments with the beatitudes – the latter are just so much more demanding. And it is the beatitudes that we seek to emulate

    Martyrs are exemplars for us all.

  75. Liz45

    MARTIN – That is a lot of cobblers! You take the stats you want to take. The truth is, and is borne out by my own personal history, and that of the huge numbers of women I’ve had contact with – your stats are bull shit, and you know it! Why would Kevin Rudd point to the horrific stats re domestic violence, and pledge over $40 million of our funds to counteract it. 5.8% is about 1 in every 20 women – 19 perhaps! That’s bull shit! I’ve already told you of my reality, of being involved in circumstances where I had heaps of women confide in me, and those stats add weight to not just one parliamentary ?? which one? State? Which state? No, these are national figures! Put Domestic Violence into Google and spend several days reading all the info.

    Anyway, I don’t give a ++++ about what you want to try and justify. The women out there and I know the truth. So, if you want to keep on peddling lies, I’d make an appointment with your favourite priest, and go and confess!

    Tell me, how may support groups have you been privy to? how many web sites have you visited? How many women involved in counselling victims have you spoken to? And, anyway, you’ve not indicated that you give a damn about these women, apart from their wombs, so why am I spending any time on you?

    The stats I refer to are the very same that Kevin Rudd alluded to when he made the commitment of the over $40 million to combat it. the stats re female homicides that I quoted; those who are murdered by their partner/husband are a reality, and I strongly suggest, that you have deliberately misquoted the whole text of those women who are victims of Domestic Violence. have you been on the White Ribbon Day website. You never provide any legitimate proof of your disagreement with the stats I assert. These stats have also been confirmed in my personal encounters with lots of women.

    Martin, you are wrong. At best, you’re an apologist for those perpetrators of physical, sexual, social and emotional violence, that sadly is the reality of 1 in 4 women in this country. What is your response re the murder of a woman in this country every 10 days by a man who is either her husband or her partner? Someone she should be able to trust, and rely on him to protect, defend her, not fear for her safety at his hands.

    Go and do some reading, and then come back and respond. Otherwise, don’t respond. All you are doing, is reinforcing every abuse that was not only done to me, but all those women and girls out there who’ve been treated in an appalling way. You are just trying to defend the indefensible – there is no defence!

    Martin, you are not interested in anything I have to say. By your own words, you are calling my reality a lie. You are calling the reality of 1 in 4 women ‘out there’ a lie. The young woman at the Reclaim the Night rally, said, that 1 in 3 women will/is being sexually abused. Go to another website. Contact one of the all too few refuges for abused and bashed women, and stop calling me a liar. Because, after 26 yrs after leaving my abuser, his legacy is living on – but now it’s despoiling the relationship I cherish with my grand children. Either exercise some of your so-called christian charity or go away.

    Women are not machines. Their bodies don’t belong to you, the church, the state or anyone else. They are more than a uterus, they are living, breathing, intelligent beings who have a right to also be saved by the medical profession. it should be up to those people intimately involved in each pregnancy to make the relevant decisions. In the final analysis, it’s none of your damned business! It is not a crime! It is deemed by every state and territory law not to be a homicide – so butt out!

  76. Liz45

    JAMES – I promise you, I’ll be more diligent in future. I think you’re a very compassionate and caring man, who genuinely wants to understand the dynamics, life’s experiences, the impact of what happened to ‘make’ the woman pregnant in the first place, and I so appreciate that. As a woman who’s had to experience so much ???? I really cherish every male who genuinely wants to understand. The sad thing is, I shouldn’t have to feel so grateful, particularly when there’s so many ‘god fearing’ christians who get involved in this debate. Why is it so?

    I’ve just listened again to that amazing woman friend of mine, who happens to be a doctor, and also works in an abortion clinic. She stated, that in her view, 20% of the women who seek an abortion at the clinic where she works, are victims of abuse, including one who presented with 2 black eyes, and when her blanket was removed, they could see bruises all over her body – this doctor emphasised, that she was only a little woman! That makes me really angry! MARTIN you need to ‘get outside the square’? Your so-called stats are BS!

    Today, I’ve had a mixture of many things. Some have reinforced the amazing inner strength and innate goodness of a human being, together with an ongoing personal injustice that has invaded my right as a grandmother from being involved in one of my lovely people’s special day. To put it bluntly – I’m still being punished for the many faceted forms of abuse the father of my kids forced on me. The pain of it tonight, has almost been too much to bear. I have to go to that special ‘place’ I created, to give me the strength to contine, and hopefully the ultimate strength, to write my book, and have my real name as the author! (I have been advised to use a pseudonym,but if I do that, who’ll know that it’s me?).I have no patience for patronising, insensitive people who just spruke dogma and BS, and really, don’t give a toss! They don’t care about the women who are pregnant, they don’t care about what happened to them, or what might happen to them if they do or don’t continue with the pregnancy – they just don’t care. They need to convince me of their so-called ‘christian views’ because I’ve only seen dogma and lies to date!

    I see no reason why I should continue this negative discussion. ‘There’s none so blind, as those who refuse to see’! Says it all really!

  77. Martin Shanahan

    Liz45 – please please please be open to information with which you disagree. You made assertions concerning data. I went and sought confirmation. I discovered that what you were asserting was false. I attach no ill will. I suspect that you have been caught by the datum point being repeated so everyone accepts the lie and just keeps repeating. Go read Bernard Nathanson’s work – listen to him tell you about the stats he used to justify abortion. All false.
    You repeat and recycle false information because the groups in which you move have decided that is reality. Thankfully it is not as bad as you say it is according to the Parliamentary Library of Australia. It is still awful. It is still abhorrent.

    You seem to think that the epidemic of domestic violence will, at least in part, be constrained by assisting women harmed to have abortions if they are pregnant. That is fairy dust. Because violence begets violence.

    You have this mindset that insists that if a male opposes you and your deadly claim of absolute rights to “control your body” and choose to abort if you so desire then the male does not understand you.

    You seem to argue that as you do not know what my involvement with women exposed to violence then I must have none. You build a mythology to your detriment.

    I have worked with women who have had abortions of and on (in the last 10 years much more off than on) for close on 30 years.

    I have spent years working in crisis accommodation centres often being the only individual running the centre.

    I have fielded calls from police in the middle of the night seeking a bed for a rape victim.

    I have sat through the night talking with indigenous Australians who are escaping the men who have smashed them.

    Liz45, none of this justifies killing another person.

    Do no harm. That is the essence. Abortion is not healthcare because every single time someone dies. Every single time.

    Abortion isn’t healthcare because killing isn’t healing.

  78. Martin Shanahan


    You have no cause to be so angry in this forum.

    I do get angry at female doctors who perpetrate violent acts on vulnerable women who have clearly already been violated. How dare she.

    I do get angry at insensitive people who claim that they have all truth on their side when in fact they work to perpetuate and legitimise violent acts against the marginalised.

    I do get angry at those who pretend that unborn children are worthy of no protection and, like a piece or property, may be discarded, shredded and disposed of for cause or no cause.

    Abortion is not healthcare because killing is not healing.


  79. Liz45

    MARTIN – I don’t need you to tell me if I have a right or a “need” to get angry. I can decide for myself. Your stats are wrong. It is well recognised, that 1 in 4 women are victims of DV(or, survivors as I prefer to call them) and one in 3 will be over their lifetime. The same stat applies to sexual assault. Go on web sites like White Ribbon Day, which started in Canada in 1999. In 1989 14 women at a University in Canada were shot dead by a man who wasn’t ‘happy’ with some positive changes for women on campus. More women were injured. In 1999, on the 2nd anniversary, men wore a white ribbon to the campus to show that they were taking a stand, to eliminate violence towards women. The UN subsequently set November 25 as the day for people around the world to take a stand against all forms of violence against women. It has been growing in this country each year. The 16 days including Nov 25 are awareness days around the world, leading up to December 10 which I think is the day to be aware of all forms of violence – everywhere to all peoples.

    If you go on White Ribbon Day website, you’ll find lots of information. If you put Domestic Violence into Google, you’ll see several million websites/articles etc – all state the statistics that I use – yours is just one source which is totally wrong! Put ADFV Clearing House into your search engine, you’ll find lots of information there too!

    I’ve finished with the discussion, as I have nothing further to add. I’m just going around in circles.

  80. Liz45

    “From the 2005 survey the ABS estimated that in the previous 12 months:

    * 363 000 women (4.7 per cent of all women) experienced physical violence; and
    * 126 100 women (1.6 per cent) experienced sexual violence.

    The ABS further estimated that:

    * 2.56 million (33 per cent of all women) have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; and
    * 1.47 million (19 per cent) have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

    From this it is possible to estimate that approximately one in five women (19 per cent) have experienced sexual violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15 and one in three women (33 per cent) have experienced physical violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15. ”

    This is just a very small segment of an article that I downloaded a few minutes ago. I put, Parliamentary Library/Domestic Violence into my search engine, and here it is!
    Go and read it. It in fact claims higher stats re physical violence than I did. 33% as opposed to my 25%

  81. Martin Shanahan


    I am really struggling with your position.

    I cannot comprehend how you can be so charitable to your friend the doctor who quite happily performs violent acts on women.

    Domestic violence is evil. Professional violence is worse than evil – these actors are knowingly violent and take money for it. Unbelievable. And you support these baby killers.

    Liz45, why do you support violent acts in one forum and hypocritically oppose deliberate violence in another.

    What are you reading Liz45, please review http://www.aph.gov.au/library/intguide/sp/Dom_violence.htm.

    You are no right to be angry – none – until you oppose violence in all its forms. Then you can be angry. You may think you have aright to decide for yourself – well so you have, so long as you are not contemptuously hypocritical as you are now.

    I am only a few years younger than with 6 children and 3 grandchildren.

    I have spent many nights with street people in Redfern. I have responded to emergency requests from police seeking a bed for a victim of domestic violence. I have sat through the night talking through issues. You have no monopoly on this.

  82. james mcdonald

    Sounds about right. I’ve seen quite a bit of this country, known a few women who were getting frequently beaten up, but in most cases those women keep to themselves and hide it. It’s a great loss of face to a woman to be in such a failed relationship so she prefers to make people think it’s better than it is. I’ve known a lot more women who at some time in the past were in an abusive relationship, and got out of it. Abusive/violent relationship covers a wide spectrum though, from constant verbal put-downs and intimidation to regular beatings and life-threatening injuries.

  83. james mcdonald

    One of them–get this–was falsely diagnosed as bipolar and put on medication, based on the husband answering all the psychiatrists’ questions on her behalf. Turns out he was the bipolar one. Between hubby and the shrink, they might have succeeded in stuffing her up for good with falsely indicated treatment. But she was a strong one, 24 carat woman, and some time around when she left him she went to another shrink who said she was traumatised but there was nothing wrong with her. Went on to be a high achiever.

  84. james mcdonald

    (“Sounds about right …” I was referring to the figures Liz quotes at 4:29pm NSW)

    Martin you’re using emotive language of “violence” for a medical procedure you disagree with. I think this has the result of winding both of you up. My understanding is that Jesus had a bit more of a “take it or leave it” way of offering his wisdom, there’s not much evidence of him getting into protracted arguments.

    Would it help if I point out that banning abortion is not on the agenda here. The Australian community has pretty much made its democratic decision. The anti-abortion position has been noted but the majority of the public does not agree. The states aren’t consistent about this so there are still some unnecessary cross-border trips being made, but that won’t last much longer. There’s been some equivocation from the TPA on drugs, but what’s really going on now is that the finer points of medical ethics are being nutted out in regard to health professionals who object to abortion on principle and refuse to assist in it (as is their right).

    The same with gay marriage and artificial insemination and contraception and stem cell research. None of these things can be banned forever. The church is just going to have to accept that it got separated from the state some centuries ago, it can guide the flock on what’s right and what’s wrong, but it no longer makes the laws in our society.

  85. Martin Shanahan

    James, please, the uterus must be forced open months before it is ready and then depending on the method used, the living beating heart is dismembered. Or some saline is injected. Or for younger ones we just give them a chemical to force separation.

    James when do you last view an abortion?

    Anyone who says abortion is not violent is living in a dream world – the one you accuse me of living in.

    There can never be such a thing as gay “marriage” – there may well be a contract between same sex couples – marriage is intrinsically open to life – gay relationships are intrinsically essentially and inescapably sterile.

    But step back to Cannold’s opening words – truth is there is nothing ethical about actions that are deliberately intended to destroy human life, innocent life, defenceless life.


  86. Liz45

    MARTIN – We’ll just have to agree to disagree! Do you support the death penalty? Do you support the invasion of Iraq & Afghanistan, and the invasion of countries by the US in order to steal their resources? How about that for violence? Women who seek and have a termination aren’t responsible for those horrors!

    JAMES – I’m one of those women who finally left the marriage – to save me from perhaps a lethal injury. Today I spoke to a woman whose daughter was allegedly bashed by her husband, that probably caused a brain bleed, and she died. She was almost 40 and her 2 little girls have no mother now – they are 4 and 5. As I’ve noted, a woman is murdered every 7 days in this country, and it’s a miracle that he didn’t hurt them as well. At best, he needs anger management. Nobody knew of this young woman’s plight, not even her mother. We hide it because we’re made to feel responsible for it. The only crimes(including sexual assault) when the victims are made to feel guilty. People are more sympathetic with others who’ve had their cars stolen, even if they left the keys in the ignition. It’s just amazing! I want to change it! Or, at least I want to do my bit.

    My ex husband threatened me with ‘talking to people’ if I continued on with my assertion, that he was a criminal for over 20 yrs. It’s been over 25 yrs since I left, and yet he thought he could do this and get away with it. His current partner(of about 23 yrs) stood there and said nought! She is probably being abused now too! These men don’t usually change unless they admit what they are and seek counselling etc. When the time is right, I will expose him publicly – by writing a book, about all facets of abuse, and hopefully women who are being abused will feel that they’re not alone, and other women will have a clearer picture of what type of man to avoid. Unless we speak out, the stats will only get worse.

    MARTIN – I don’t see any comparison to this type of assault and abortion. I gave you the stats for domestic violence. I also told you of the strong link between women who are abused and depression. I know about that first hand. It’s impossible to function as an adult if your self-esteem is worn down day after day. The majority of people don’t agree with your view. They believe it’s a question between a woman and her doctor, and hopefully her partner. I agree! I’d like to see the day when abortions were a thing of the past. I also reject the view that it’s the abortions that cause the violence. In fact, I think as has been pointed out, that the opposite is true.

  87. james mcdonald

    Martin, you’re arguing that abortion is violence against two parties, the unborn and the pregnant woman.

    In the first case, your argument is valid and rests on the a priori conviction or church teaching that the unborn has the status of a person from the moment of conception. We’ve already agreed to disagree on that.

    In the second case–violence against the pregnant woman–logic is not on your side. If the woman gives consent and the procedure is done professionally and safely, then by the same argument any surgical intervention is violence.

    Take that argument to it’s conclusion, and it can expose anti-abortionists to accusations of violence by forcing a woman to undergo childbirth–which is not a picnic any more than abortion is–without her consent. Consider the high profile case of a 14 year old rape victim in Ireland in 1992. According to a psychologist she was near suicidal when she challenged the law that stopped her crossing the border to get an abortion in England. At no time had this girl ever given consent to bear the child–not when she was raped, nor at any time afterwards.

  88. Martin Shanahan


    Get this Church stuff out of your thinking – it is not necessary – no one doubts that the at the moment of conception what is created is a human being. One might like to attribute all elements of personhood at that moment, but it is not necessary. That what we are dealing with is unambiguously human is all that is needed. Anyone who attempts to maintain that the thing we are dealing with from the moment of conception is anything other than human is in pixie land.

    Once you get out of fairyland, we can discuss what rights if any a human being can have at points chosen along the continuum of existence. You appear to be suggesting that there are no person rights at least until birth. Fascinating – if birth occurs for whatever reason at say 25 weeks after conception against a birth that occurs at term let’s say 40 weeks post conception – wow – does the 25 week gestation child accrue rights faster than the 40 week gestation child. Seems so. But quite unrealistic. Why not say that accrue at 18 – when we get the vote – why not at 21 or 25.

    The only safe thing to do for consistency and logic is to agree that human beings accrue rights from conception – any other point on the life continuum is arbitrary and unjust – and I am sure you do not like acting unjustly and certainly not arbitrarily.

    James – your suggestion that the violence of abortion is equivalent to the violence of abortion is absurd – and mate you know it. In abortion, someone dies – always. In birth you have two live human beings.

    Wow, didn’t think you would go with the hard case line. You know as well if not better than I do that hard cases ALWAYS make bad law. And he who plays the hard case line is lost.

    Go back and read the decades of evidence assessed and analysed by Ney – not only is it compelling – no one but no one has repudiated it.

    Your 14 year old rape victim said to be near suicidal by a psychologist (not a psychiatrist, strange – psychiatrists are much more able to assess, diagnose and treat these situations than any psychologist no matter how good) – abortion is absolutely contra-indicated in situations of depression/suicide. Never ever have an abortion if you have a mental illness. It just gets worse – and you live with it forever.

    Analyse and assess the consequences or survivor syndrome James.

    But let’s deal with the hard case/hard law syndrome with which you have suddenly become enamoured James.

    14 year old girl raped and becomes pregnant.
    Guilty person? Rapist.
    Innocent human being number 1: 14 year old child.
    Innocent human being number 2: weeks old unborn child

    Or James are you pretending that the unborn child who had nothing to do with the rape is by
    virtue of the circumstances also guilty. Surely not ?

    Just because I give consent to the execution of another done by a trained soldier who can carry out the execution swiftly, without knowledge and no pain never makes the execution lawful.

    So a pregnant woman gives consent to the carrying out of a violent act on another human being – doesn’t make it sound. Just means that there is at some level cooperation in the killing of an innocent human being.

    James I oppose the death penalty – always have. Have never been able to make sense of it.

    Cannot understand those who oppose abortion (medical/surgical/so-called therapeutic) but support the death penalty.

    Even more though cannot understand those who support abortion for any reason but oppose the death penalty. This category is really absolutely inconsistent – just on the numbers game let alone principle.

    Abortion always kills at least 1 innocent human being And in the tens of thousands in NSW alone every year. Even in China, judicial application of the death penalty does not result in anything like these numbers killed “lawfully” by abortion.

    I assume you do in fact oppose the death penalty James, at all times and in every circumstance.

    Oh and James, really – childbirth and abortion are just not equivalent. In the first, nature with assistance takes its course painfully but not fatally. In the latter – someone dies – every single time – and so not on. Let’s stay in the real world rather than some fantasy-land!

    Best wishes,


  89. Martin Shanahan


    there is nothing emotive about the English word violence. It is a plain, ordinary, sensible word. Now if I say gratuitous violence, barbaric violence, – then I am getting emotional. You are surely not insisting that a partial birth abortion, you know the one where the head is crowned, then the brain evacuated then the skull crushed then the body pulled out of the mother – now see, I didn’t use the word violence anywhere there – but what I described is just awful – yet lawful in many US states and across China.
    That is horrendous – please tell me you do not support partial birth abortion James – and then please tell me why you do not?

  90. Martin Shanahan


    Do you support the use of partial birth abortions? Why/why not?

  91. Liz45

    MARTIN – We’ll just have to agree to disagree! I don’t have anything further to add. I’ve put my position, and that of an overwhelming number of women, and men too for that matter. I agree that terminations are best carried out at about 7 weeks. I’ve asserted that no woman wants to have an abortion, and that says it all from my perspective. I’m not going around in circles again! I’ve also asserted, that there’s a strong link between crimes of violence perpetrated by men against women which is strongly linked to terminations. I gave the stats, and you haven’t had the decency to say that yours were wrong – as indeed they are. I’ve also raised the responsibility or lack of it by men. I believe that these issues need to be addressed and overcome by the general community, and sadly, there’s a long way to go.

  92. james mcdonald

    No doubt about it, abortion is an ugly, traumatic, harrowing business not to be taken lightly. Women will take that into account, with advice of experts and together with the father (if he’s still in the picture), when choosing whether or not to have one. Forcing, pressuring, or injuring a woman into an abortion she doesn’t want is a terrible thing to do, deserving severe punishment.

  93. Liz45

    Yes James, it is incredibly sad. I met a woman yesterday whose 40 yr old daughter was probably killed by her husband. She left 2 little girls without a mother. This young woman’s mother is not only anguished by her daughter’s death, but is trying to fight the male Judges in the Family Court. She could be in a position in future, where she’s forced to take these little girls to visit the man who killed her daughter? Unbelievable isn’t it? The parents of that man are treating this mother as though the role is reversed! If he was my son I’d be full of shame and anguish. I raised my sons to the view, that violence is not on, not toward women or anyone. I actively discouraged any fights between them too. ‘Any fool can use his fists, it takes brains to solve problems with words etc’?Howard and Ruddock have a lot to answer for, when they passed the 50-50 parenting Legislation. I can’t tell you the numbers of women who are being forced to send their kids back to a physically or sexually abusive father (he’s lost all rights to that honour, in my view). I read an article in the paper just last weekend, where this bloke is searching for his wife and 5 yr old son. She took off when the Family Court forced her to send her son back to this man – no reasons were given of course, as it’s just from his perspective, and he didn’t say why she left her home, her family, indeed her country, but I bet she had a darned good reason. Abuse?? We seem to go 2 steps forward, and then some misogynist forces us back 3. Read, ‘End of Equality’ by Ann Summers? Howard’s contribution to putting the rights of women back decades.

  94. Liz45

    P.S I meant, to visit their father in prison? How galling would that be? She’s awaiting the results of a study on her daughter’s brain by one of only two experts in her State? Amazing isn’t it? She said she won’t do it – no way! I don’t blame her!

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