To cries of “shame” from the pubic gallery, the NSW parliament, this week, voted against a bill which sought to decriminalise abortion. The bill’s other reforms included a requirement for anti-abortion doctors to refer patients to doctors who are willing to help them and called for 150 metre safe-access zones around abortion clinics to protect women from ‘pro-life’ protestors.
As journalist, Tracey Spicer, reminded us on Twitter this afternoon:
“One-in-three Australian women will have an abortion during their lifetime. I did. We deserve better than to be treated as criminals.”
Spicer quoted from her recent memoir, The Good Girl Stripped Bare:
“The ability of women to control their bodies is critical to civil rights. If the government forces you to continue a pregnancy, what about using contraception or undergoing sterilisation? It’s a slippery slope. Bottom line? It’s my body, not yours.”
It beggars belief that Dr Mehreen Faruqi’s (Greens) sensible and humane bill was rejected by the NSW parliament. The views of those who voted against the bill are completely out of step with their constituents.
Polls and surveys undertaken over the last 30 years have consistently shown majority community support for abortion rights.
Importantly, a 2010 study of practicing obstetricians and gynaecologists in Australia identified “broad support among responding specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists and trainees for the availability of induced abortion in Australia”.
If politicians are elected to represent the views and interests of their constituents in consultation with experts in relevant fields, why was this bill defeated?
It seems clear there is some other agenda at play.
I looked at the list of politicians who voted against the bill.
I found five (21 percent) of the 24 politicians who opposed it have the dubious honour of being listed on the Australian Christian Values Institute’s ‘Hall of Fame’: Robert Brown, David Clarke, Shoquette Moselmane, Fred Nile and Duncan Gay.
That was an incentive to explore the religious connection further.
My investigation found 66 percent (16) of the dissenting politicians seem to have some religious affiliation or belief.
I was unable to find no religious connections or convictions for only 7 of the 24 dissenters (29 percent).
Of those who opposed the bill:
- 25 percent (6) were Catholic: Robert Borsak, David Clarke, Greg Donnelly, Greg Pearce, Ernest Wong and Catherine Cusack.
“My high school years were spent under the guiding influence of the Brothers and the devoted lay teachers at Christian Brothers College in Fremantle … [Pope John Paul II’s] tireless promotion of the innate dignity of the human person and life itself was, and will continue to be, an inspiring example for all of us.” – First Speech – Greg Donnelly (Labor)
“Another layer of cultural influence was added by my parent’s choice of a Jesuit senior school in which the additional values of Catholic social justice, ethical thinking and deep respect for education featured prominently.” – First Speech – Ernest Wong (Labor)
29 percent (7) seem to identify with or have connections with various Protestant faiths: Scott Farlow, Scot MacDonald, Shayne Mallard, Paul Green, Fred Nile, Natasha MacLaren-Jones, Bronnie Taylor
“I enter this place a Christian and wish to acknowledge in this Chamber Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, the King of Kings. I bring my Christian values to this place, as much as they are the values that define me.” – First Speech – Scott Farlow (Liberal)
Perhaps Farlow should be reminded of the disclaimer he made after making such a strong declaration of faith: “I believe in Christian values and I seek to uphold them, I do not believe it is my place to legislate them … I do not believe the Bible, Torah, Quran or any religious text should be used as the yardstick for determining public policy.”
“I value our Judea [sic] Christian foundations.” – First Speech – Scot MacDonald (Liberal)
“… over the years I have also worked constructively with Hillsong and the Salvation Army as an elected local councillor” – First Speech – Shayne Mallard (Liberal)
“… I must acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, who has led me to this place to serve the people of this great State … The Christian Democratic Party seeks to support and promote pro-Christian and pro-family policies for the benefit of all Australians, and to ensure that all legislation is brought into conformity with Christian principles …” – First Speech – Paul Green (Christian Democratic Party)
“My parents instilled in me the important values and beliefs of personal responsibility, Christianity … Being part of a very close-knit family myself, based on Christian values ….” – First Speech – Natasha MacLaren-Jones (Liberal)
Two (8 percent) are ‘Christian’ but I was unable to pinpoint a denomination: Lou Amato, Rick Colless.
“It is with a joyful heart that I thank God for granting me the privilege of serving as a member of the Legislative Council. I also ask God to continue to offer me guidance and wisdom so that I may discharge my duties with honesty and integrity. “ – First Speech – Lou Amato (Liberal)
In 2012 Rick Colless refused to vote in favour of a motion to urge the federal parliament to support same-sex marriage on the basis of his “Christian background”
One (4 percent) is Muslim: Shaoquette Moselmane.
I was unable to find any religious connections for Robert Brown, Ben Franklin, Duncan Gay, Trevor Khan, Niall Blair, Taylor Martin, Peter Phelps, or Sarah Mitchell (33 percent) – although that does not mean there are none.
“Given the overwhelming public and medical support for decriminalising abortion, Duncan Gay also seems to have ignored his own guidelines in voting against the bill: ““My own overriding belief is that Government should reflect the views of the people whose franchise we all hold and most definitely not lead in the direction of our own philosophies. The lessons of history, of what happens when governments do not reflect the true feelings of the people, should be acknowledged.” – First Speech – Duncan Gay (Nationals)
Whether for religious or political reasons, none of these 24 politicians represented the views of the majority of NSW residents, nor the best interests of women. None of them acted in line with expert medical opinion.
As Catholic MLC Catherine Cusack said in her opening speech to Parliament:
“I close by drawing on the great example and words of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick on the occasion of her maiden speech some 25 years ago: It is my hope that I may give account of myself in this Parliament so that at the end I can say, in the words of St Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” – First Speech – Catherine Cusack (Liberal)
You certainly have, Ms Cusack. But, only in a theocracy is ‘keeping the faith’ of St Paul the role of a politician. Your job is not to ‘keep the faith’ but to represent the views of the people who elected you.
In this instance, neither you, nor your colleagues, have kept faith with the people you represent.