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Challenge to PM and GPs over Secret Abortions

17 September 2004

Challenge to PM and GPs over Secret Abortions

In an article entitled “Counselling cuts abortions by 25%” in LIGHT (August 2004) published by The Festival of Light Australia (see special note below), the critical importance of the availability of counselling services to all women who are contemplating an abortion, is highlighted. Such services are also critical to those who have had an abortion, emphasising the fact that an abortion can have a major impact on the spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental and physical well-being of a woman.

In the light of this article and the findings highlighted, the Society challenges the Prime Minister, Ms Helen Clark, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Family Planning Association, the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Medical Association to provide evidence based on published scientific studies, supporting their publicised views that:

It is NOT in the best interests of the vast majority of under-16-year-old pregnant girls seeking an abortion to ALWAYS discuss their pregnancy and their options for dealing with it (including having an abortion), WITH THEIR GUARDIAN(S), in addition to receiving counselling from health professionals, PRIOR TO BEING REFERRED BY THEIR GP TO A CERTIFYING CONSULTANT.

The Society submits that it is almost always in the girl’s best interests to have the matter of an intended abortion disclosed by the GP to the girl’s parents, so that those responsible for the primary care-giving (the parents and NOT the doctor!), can give guidance and support to her. In the tiny minority of cases where health professionals and/or the police consider that disclosure is not in the best interests of the girl, the matter could be resolved in the Family Court as proposed in a recent supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Care of Children Bill.

The PM and all the groups referred to above, strongly oppose this SOP, that includes an amendment to Clause 37 of the Care of Children Bill. The SOP, put forward by National health spokesperson Ms Judith Collins, would make it mandatory for all GPs to disclose to the guardian(s) of all under-16-year-old girls intending to have an abortion, the planned abortion, BEFORE the matter is referred to a certifying consultant. The Society submits that professional counselling services should be made available to the girl prior to the matter being dealt with by a certified consultant and that GPs should make every effort to speak to the girl’s guardian(s) face-to-face, before the matter of an abortion ever proceeds.

The Festival of Light Australia article states:

The Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) has announced that its new program of compulsory counselling and time for reflection for women seeking an abortion has slashed the number of terminations by 25 per cent.

An article in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail (25/7/04, p. 12) said: “The drop in terminations has prompted calls for more comprehensive counselling to ensure women are fully informed of the financial and social support available, their options and the emotional impact of the decision.

“The Australian Medical Association also wants more post-termination counselling, warning that most women face unexpected grief.

“Last year, 584 women made appointments at the WCH for terminations, where counselling is mandatory. The delay saw only 473 turn up for the talk, then only 417 went through with the termination after discussing their options.

“WCH senior social worker Jayne Rickard said women needed to be fully informed of their options. ‘It is their decision and they should not be coerced into it by feeling they have no options,’ she said.”

In contrast to the WCH, the Pregnancy Advisory Centre does most (over 300 per cent) of Adelaide’s abortions and does not insist on counselling beforehand. When the PAC stopped allowing a week’s delay before each abortion in the late 1990s, SA abortion rates rose significantly.

“The 25% drop in abortions at WCH is good news indeed,” said Adelaide GP Dr Tony Turnbull. “And the call for post-abortion counselling indicates that the Australian Medical Association has at last acknowledged the deep grief suffered by many women who terminate their babies.”


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