Doing no harm

June 28th, 2006

Six years ago, in the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, a woman (known as “Ms X”) became hysterical when she was informed that the foetus she was carrying had skeletal dyspraxia (commonly known as dwarfism). She demanded an abortion.

At 32 weeks pregnant, aged 40, Ms X was acutely suicidal and, after careful examination by an ultrasonologist, obstetrician, geneticist and psychiatrist, a decision was taken to terminate the pregnancy in February 2000. Six years later the Court of Appeal rejected Ms Xs case.

“Subject to any appeal by the Hospital to the High Court, this decision categorically determines that sensitive medical records of a hospital are not exempt from production to a Court or statutory body (acting within its powers) on the grounds of public interest immunity.”

Ms X, as best she could, got on with her life. That was until Senator Julian McGauran, an anti-abortion Liberal Party Senator made a complaint to the Medical Practitioners Board. In November 2000, in parliament, he urged prosecution under an untested section of the Victorian Crimes Act, which creates an offence of child destruction after 28 weeks. Senator McGauran made the complaint after the State Coroner handed him a copy of the police brief that included the woman’s private medical files.

I have been concerned about the push to set aside a woman’s right to privacy with regard to medical records with the express goal of reducing reproductive rights for some time, and now, I am terrified.

“None of the people around that case, either that be the nursing staff or social workers or psychologists or the hospital ethics committee, the patient, the patient’s family or any doctors, had a concern about that case and did not feel it was appropriate to notify. When it was notified, the patient did not want the records released.Irrespective of that, then an individual, who has no real connection to the case, but has an ideological interest in the case has then been able to drag an individual through a process, over six years, where her records are investigated by people she didn’t want them to have investigated by.” – President of the Victorian AMA, Dr Mark Yates

I am very proud of the Victorian AMA and their push to change legislation so that a case like this can never be heard again. Ms X, and all women, have a right to expect privacy, dignity and support when they find themselves acutely suicidal at the thought of continuing a pregnancy.

Just so we are clear- after ‘acutely suicidal’ comes ‘completed suicide.’

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“She had high heels on”

June 22nd, 2006

Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not own one pair of sensible shoes. I am therefore hugely impressed by the heroine and the hero in this story!

My heroine is a very fast policewoman who chased a man down Chapel Street.

My hero is a passer-by who noticed a woman’s shoes and was impressed by how fast she was going in them.

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Military culture exposed.

June 19th, 2006

Just when the Defence Force Ombudsman states that the Department of Defence has improved the way that it handles grievances, reflecting a new level of maturity in the ADF, we read of “Gilly from Timor” an artillery officer, who sent an open e-mail detailing his impressions and movements whilst (and presumably – still) on active duty in the Australian Army in Timor.

He describes his infantry comrades as “dumber than I thought”. He says of his RAAF colleagues that they are “jack pricks.”

Responses from fellow enlisted people to Gilly, reveal a similar culture of disproportional, base responses. These have been swift and blunt with comments such as:

“It’s good to see another fine product from ADFA is getting his moment in the sun. I hope those blokes from 1RAR who were such a hindrance to you appreciate the fine, three year taxpayer funded holiday you went on in Canberra made you the tactical genius you appear to be.”

“What a cock – if he doesn’t hang over this, I will tongue my own a..e.”

“This bloke should be broken like a shotgun and horsef…ed.”

The ADF is spending tens of thousands of dollars on recruiting young people into their ranks. They advertise heavily in magazines that attract a young demographic. However, I doubt even the most immature teenager would not see the culture displayed by the four ADF members above for what it is – Puerile.

I firmly believe the Services offer a fantastic range of career opportunities for young Australians, and every ADF member needs to convince others to join us.” – Director General Defence Force Recruiting Brigadier Simon Gould.

Obviously the Brigadier is just another aca-fucking-demic from Canberra.

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Evidence-based counselling

June 9th, 2006

Weez over at mgk has done a great post on unethical counselling practices when it comes to government funded pregnancy couselling as highlighted by the GetUp! action for Australia group.
On 1 June 2006, Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja, an Australian Democrat, posted this media release:

“Govt defends funding for anti-choice counselling.

The Government today continued to defend its anti-choice pregnancy counselling service, Pregnancy Help Australia, in the face of evidence that the organisation does not “advise, provide or refer, directly or indirectly, for abortion or abortifacients”. Pregnancy Help Australia is the only dedicated pregnancy counselling service which receives Federal Government funding.

“This quote, from Pregnancy Help Australia’s constitution, is clear evidence that the organisation is anti-choice,” Democrats’ Spokesperson for the Status of Women Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

Senator Stott Despoja also questioned the Government about Pregnancy Help Australia’s recent submission to a Senate inquiry where it outlined its opposition to RU486, and its links to Heartbeat International an anti-choice umbrella group for ‘crisis pregnancy services’, whose affiliates must not “advise, provide or refer for abortion of abortifacients”.

“Despite all of this documented evidence about Pregnancy Help Australia’s anti-abortion stance, officials today said they were confident the organisation was meeting the terms of its funding agreement with the Department, that its affiliates provide non-directive counselling, and that it is satisfied with the organisation’s performance,” Senator Stott Despoja said.

A compilation of biased and misleading information given out to women and their families by organisations affiliated with Pregnancy Help Australia is available on request.

Senator Stott Despoja has introduced legislation to regulate pregnancy counselling in Australia, which is currently being examined by a Senate committee. The committee is accepting submissions until June 16 and will hold public hearings in the week beginning July 17. It is due to report on August 17.”

Formal, professional qualifications, ethical practice, worker neutrality, trust, honesty and the right of a client to self-determine are the cornerstones of a reputable counselling service. Moreover, no peak body, not the AASW nor the APS would describe Pregnancy Help Australia or Pregnancy Counselling Australia, as outlined in their mission statements as coming close to best practice, let alone reputable.

The exploitation of vulnerable people by a right-to-life agenda masquerading as legitimate counselling is unethical. Any organisation not declaring or clearly articulating its agenda to its clients is unconscionable and should not be funded by Australian taxpayers, who in every survey conducted support choice for women facing an unwanted pregnancy.

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FNQ; the outpost of choice.

June 6th, 2006

I hadn’t ever been to Queensland when my more adventurous friends returned from their “up north treks” to tell of sun, surf, four X and reproductive rights suppression.

Back then the only clinic in the whole state was in Brisbane. Even this one surgical termination service in Brisbane was barely tolerated by the government. If you lived in a remote part of the state or you were poor- too bad.

I remember as an urban, Melbourne girl being so outraged by this. We took it for granted that a woman had a right to choose. My mother and her generation fought for those rights and I thank them. When my tanned friends told of news they had heard around feminist circles up there in the sunshine state that the Queensland government was planning to force all females of child-bearing age to have a pregnancy test before they were allowed to hop on the bus to travel south to NSW, I was incredulous. That story (true or not) was a radicalising point for me. I had supported enough of my friends through an unwanted pregnancy to know how real their fear and terror was of having to make a choice either way. I was not going to be quiet.

Now, some 25 years later, tucked away in an office in Cairns, as the result of a conscience vote, we have Professor Caroline De Costa leading the way in reproductive choice for women. Next month 40 RU486 pills we be landing in Australia. 40 women, supported by their medical practitioner, will have a greater choice when accessing a termination of pregnancy.

For those that don’t know- Cairns is in Far North Queensland.

“This [the use of RU486] is something that women want and it is a matter between us and our patients and nobody else.” -Professor de Costa.

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