At the Border of Life – Dr David van Gend

Abortion law declares open season on healthy babies

5 MINUTE READ

from Luke’s Journal 2019 | Hot Topics #2 | Vol. 24 No. 1

Male hands holding a model depicting a 20-week baby.
A model depicting a 20-week baby.

This article was first published in The Courier Mail on 16 October 2018.

I have held a baby born at 22 weeks, the youngest age of the premature babies in our hospital nurseries.

All babies like her who are born over 20 weeks require a birth certificate and, if they die, a death certificate. They are little Queenslanders under our law.

If someone had tried to attack that little baby while I held her, I would have protected her. Yet Labor’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 allows adults to put their unborn baby to death up to 22 weeks of age on demand, no questions asked, and any doctor who tries to protect that baby will be breaking the law of the land.

This is a time for civil disobedience. Labor’s abortion law not only declares open season on entirely healthy babies of entirely healthy mothers up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, but also crushes the conscience of doctors who object to this barbarism.

A GP colleague of mine, Mark Hobart, has already faced this coercion of conscience under section 8 of Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, which mirrors section 8 of Queensland’s proposed law.

Section 8 compels a doctor to collaborate in a patient’s request for termination of pregnancy, even if the doctor thinks it is medically unjustified and morally wrong.

“…under the Palaszczuk/Trad Labor government, principle has given way to ideology; the stilettos of sexual liberty and feminist power will stamp on that silent innocence.”

Dr Hobart was approached by an Indian couple at 19 weeks of pregnancy who wanted an abortion because they were having a girl and they only wanted a boy.

By refusing to give a referral, Dr Hobart broke the law in Victoria – just as GPs in Queensland will be breaking Labor’s law if we refuse to sentence a 19-week unborn baby girl to death for the crime of being a girl.

We will refuse. We will defy this “unjust law which carries the hallmarks of totalitarianism”. That was how Frank Brennan, former chair of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee, described the Victorian abortion law, which it now appears will be replicated in Queensland.

ACU Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Law Greg Craven described section 8 of that law as “fascist”. The late hospital ethicist, Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, said, “expecting a doctor to act against his conscience is totalitarian”. And the mild-mannered father of general practice in Australia, Professor John Murtagh, denounced section 8 as “Stalinist”.

With virtually identical legislation due to be voted on in Queensland next week, we need courageous legal and medical voices to denounce this evil.

Queensland law always has allowed for abortion in those rare, tragic cases where it is needed to save the mother’s life.

Our law has also been principled and just in defending the weakest members of the human family, with Justice McGuire’s ruling from 1986 declaring, “The law in this State has not abdicated its responsibility as guardian of the silent innocence of  the unborn”.

“These are dark days. We know our culture is brutalised when we violently repel these little asylum seekers at the border of life.”

But under the Palaszczuk/Trad Labor government, principle has given way to ideology; the stilettos of sexual liberty and feminist power will stamp on that silent innocence.

These are dark days. We know our culture is brutalised when we violently repel these little asylum seekers at the border of life. We know our politics is brutalised when we enshrine intentional killing in our law.

As to that baby I held at 22 weeks, in the end we could not save her. Before she died, her mother asked a nurse to christen her, we dressed her in the tiny gown that volunteers knit for premmie babies, and she took a few small breaths on her mother’s breast.

Isn’t that the right way to treat a 22-week baby, Premier Palaszczuk? Think of her as you cast your vote on a life-destroying law that carries the hallmarks of totalitarianism.


Dr David van Gend
Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba GP and senior lecturer in palliative medicine, married to Jane with three adult sons. Since 1994 he has been Queensland Secretary of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life, an organisation founded by the late Dr Jerome le Jeune. David wrote a best-selling book for the marriage campaign, Stealing from a Child (Connor Court, 2016) and is drafting a new book on the last quarter century of bioethical battles in Australia.

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