Tony Abbott has proven through his use of junk science and religion to inform his statements and parliamentary actions on RU486 that he is unfit to hold the Health portfolio. Abbott cannot keep his private religious views from corrupting his actions as Health Minister, which affect all Australian women, who may, or much more often may not, share his Catholic views.
While RU486 is not risk-free, neither is pregnancy. Clinical trials showed that 5% of women who used RU486 had complications such as heavy, prolonged bleeding or incomplete ejection of the foetus. However, spontaneous miscarriage, with similar complications to RU486 occurs in about 16% of pregnancies. Regardless, in the 95% of cases in which women successfully used RU486, complications specific to surgical abortion, such as those from anaesthesia and accidental infection from the surgery itself, are avoided completely.
Since 1996, the Health Minister has been solely responsible for approving new medications, despite the position not requiring the Health Minister to be a qualified GP or other medical specialist. Tony Abbott is not a trained medical specialist of any kind. Quite a number of non-medical practioner politicians have weighed in to interfere with women’s rights to reproductive choice. I’d sooner have a faith-healer fix my car’s transmission.
Worse, abortion is still technically illegal in several Australian states. It is only the lack of government will to prosecute women and their GPs that so far has left many women with the notion that it is their legal right in Australia to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. However, a Sydney GP has recently been charged with manslaughter with respect to providing abortifacient medications in 2002 to a Sydney woman who was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. Dr Suman Sood is the first physician in Australia to be charged with manslaughter of a foetus since the early 1970s.
Australia plays fast and loose with a number of the basic human rights of citizens. There are no guaranteed protections of fundamentals like freedom of speech and freedom of reproductive choice. It is but the whim or inattention of the government that prevents more Australians from being victimised by the government for the exercise of these basic human rights.
The Right Reverend Minister Abbott and several other gubmint defenders of the patriarchal right to manage their women and other chattels as they see fit, fail to realise that their law affects all people in our borders, while not all subscribe to their faerie-tale based value structures. While Australia has a historical connection of religion to government which may preclude the full separation of church and state, as long as there are non-Anglicans and non-Catholics residing in Australia, no fair law should reflect a preference for any religion.
Once politicians are taken out of the loop of making medical decisions for Australian women, the next goal is to remove laws from the books which to this day criminalise abortion in many Australian states. There should never be a possibility of a woman or her physician being penalised for her exercise of her right to choose how to operate her body- and her life.
Pregnancy termination is a medical problem for women, not a moral issue resolvable by priests nor a rights issue which should be addressed with legislation.
What we are up against is not any sort of valid scientific objection that RU486 is patently unsafe or unsuitable for purpose. We are confronting a group of people who want to save us from ourselves. This authoritarian and paternalistic approach presumes that women are not smart enough to gather all the data and make appropriate decisions for their circumstances.
Paternalism may have a place, perhaps when instructing one’s own very young children, who may yet not have enough information or processing ability to make good decisions. However, paternalism has no place in government or laws pertaining to adults.
Until elbows, livers and cancer cells have individual civil rights, politicians and judges should keep their noses out from between Australian women’s legs. The Therapeutic Goods Administration should make judgements about medicines, not the Health Minister.
Women already have the sole natural human right to choose how to operate their bodies. It’s time to codify that right in Australian law.
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