Opinion: The search for being human

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ABOUT five years ago my wife worked in an Indian rural hospital in Uttar Pradesh as part of her obstetric medical training – and I tagged along for the ride.

One of the many shocks she got was the Indian culture’s attitude towards baby girls. Unfortunately, girls in India cost families money, usually in the form of dowries, while boys not only received dowries, but also were the earners who would support parents in their old age. The problem was, in an area as poor as this, if a pregnant woman found out she was having a girl she would immediately seek an abortion. Thank God that the small Christian hospital we were at was wise enough to simply reject any request to discover the sex of the unborn baby.

That was halfway around the world but, surprising as it may seem, it is worse in parts of Australia.

This situation of gender-abortion appeared in Melbourne where a couple recently sought a referral for an abortion at 19 weeks because they “wanted a boy”. The doctor refused, but under Victorian abortion laws he faced a suspension of his medical licence for his conscientious objection.

The laws currently being proposed in Tasmania are along similar lines, with fines of $32,000 for any doctor refusing to refer.

I didn’t always think abortion was wrong, but my resolve was irreversibly changed when I shook hands with someone who had been aborted.

Gianna Jessen, one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, was aborted using a saline solution at 30 weeks. She was still alive when born, and the doctor left her to die on the table. However, a nurse swept her up afterwards and provided care for her, though the damage done left her with cerebral palsy. She now travels the world sharing her story of survival, love and forgiveness.

The advancement of science and ultrasound technology is also bringing some important facts into the discussion. Prominent atheist, the late Christopher Hitchens, wrote: “As a materialist, I think it has been demonstrated that an embryo is a separate body and entity, and not merely a growth on or in the female body…You can’t say the rights question doesn’t come up”.

We can argue that abortion in Australia is needed to “protect women’s reproductive freedom”, but it can also be argued that we are authorising the destruction of freedom for 50,000 little women every year. “Safe, rare and legal” are often put forward as a justification for abortion, but the reality is that when abortion is legalised it becomes less rare, and is certainly much less safe for at least one of the parties involved.

However, the most deeply disturbing factor for me is the effect this has on children with disabilities. I used to work in a school with many adorable children with Down syndrome. This will not be possible for many future teachers, as due to nuchal translucency screenings, up to 93 per cent of these babies are aborted.

As horrible as this situation is, it may get worse if we follow the recent Order of Australia recipient Peter Singer’s position. He argues that similar to unborn babies, newborn babies don’t have any rational desires, and therefore infanticide is not morally wrong.

I recognise that it is difficult to have this debate, so deep are the emotions attached on both sides, but it is one that needs to continue as we learn more about what it means to be human.

However, a loud note of caution needs to sound when we are not only seeing the devaluing of humanity for people with disabilities (the NDIS might become redundant), but also forcing compliance of these laws on doctors, thereby removing freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

I warn that a society’s shift away from the sacredness of life is fraught with unseen and unborn consequences.

Nick Jensen is a director of the ACT Australian Christian Lobby.



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  1. i really can’t be bothered to go through nit picking every single thing that is wrong with what you’ve said but you should know that you are obviously horribly ignorant on this matter and should educate yourself further.
    you treat women’s rights as a philosophical and hypothetical issue totally ignoring that “women’s reproductive freedom”, as you so patronisingly put it, is for many women a matter of life and death. you should be ashamed of yourself.

  2. what an aggressively ignorant piece of writing. is CityNews’s editor lazy, uninterested in balanced (or even vaguely informed) articles, or is this a piece of satire? it is the first time I have encountered the suggestion that a doctor’s personal view is of greater consequence than their patient. hilariously not funny.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, though I would have hoped there was more engagement with the arguments put forward.

    Chris – I don’t know if slighting my education is helpful. My wife helped me write this piece and she has worked in obstetrics for several years now. I agree abortion is sometime an issue of life and death for the mother, though this is in a very minimal number of abortions. It is however always an issue of life and death for the child.

    Sillyfox – I don’t think attacking the editor of CityNews is appropriate, as all opinions (if respectful) should have a place in the public space. I don’t think I said that the doctor’s personal view is of greater consequence, but certainly it plays an important part in the affair as they are the ones ultimately and legally responsible.

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