Victoria’s Infant Viability Bill which was voted down On 25 May 2016 was intended to provide holistic care of pregnant mothers carrying post 24 week children and protection of these pre-born babies from abortion.
The Bill was proposed by DLP Rachel Carling-Jenkins MLC.
In the lead up to the vote on the Bill, approximately 44,000 handwritten petitions were provided in support of the Bill.
A public rally outside Parliament House on Saturday 21 May was attended by 1,500 people.
A Galaxy survey in March 2016, found that 64 per cent of Victorians are opposed to late term abortion.
Rita Panahi, a pro-choice journalist, in an opinion piece in the Herald Sun stated that:
“Only the most extreme pro- abortion ideologues would profess to have no issue with a healthy child being aborted when it is near full term”.
On the day of the vote, the public gallery was filled to bursting with supporters, seating 300, with an extra 50 provided live streaming in Queens Hall.
There were, however, ominous signs that opposition to the Bill, by those who asserted that “abortion is a medical procedure, not a crime” had punctured anticipated support. Misrepresentations that late term abortion only happened in case of lethal fetal abnormality swirled around the media and the chamber.
Despite stellar speeches by a number of pro-life speakers the Infant Viability Bill did not pass in the Legislative Council.
The position taken by the Greens and other MLC’s ideologically opposed to the Bill was reflected in the statement by Jaala Pulford MLC (ALP):
“I will oppose this bill because I am pro-choice. Some people may assert that you can be pro-choice but with limits, but I disagree.”
Fiona Pattern MLC (Sex Party) went as far to assert that the notion that a fetus has personhood prior to it being born is very dangerous.
A number of MLC’s objected to legal restrictions being placed on clinical practice. Sanctions to be imposed on people performing unlawful late-term abortions was set at the lowest level for any injury to the person, equivalent to “recklessly cause injury”.
A brilliant study of the historical and philosophical rights of a viable child was provided by Daniel Mulino MLC (ALP), arguing from Roe v Wade (1974) US Supreme Court, that at some point in the pregnancy the rights of the viable child become compelling and override the woman’s right to privacy.
While he shared some concern, with others, about providing a criminal penalty for performing a late term abortion, he was able to support the bill on the basis that the maximum penalty would be applied on an exceptional basis and his expectation would be that much less severe deterrents would be appropriate in the majority of cases
The immediate applause by the gallery to this brilliant speech received a rebuke from the Acting President.
Bernie Finn MP (Lib) deserves to be quoted in full:
“To quote something that is often thrown at me by the Greens, the science is settled. These babies are human beings. They are little people who are deserving of our protection, and we should make it very, very clear in the short time that I have to speak on this bill today that a vote against this bill is a vote for late-term abortion. It is a vote to kill a viable, live baby who would otherwise survive if born alive. It is a vote for the current situation of abortion until birth in this state, and that, I think, is barbaric and totally unacceptable.
If a child has a disability — and I feel very strongly about this — you love that child. You bring that child into the world. You do not kill that child because that child has a disability. As the father of a child with a disability — and a severe disability — I regard it as subhuman to try to rip the humanity of a child of anybody away because they have a disability. Disability has no impact on the humanity of anybody at any time in their life. Unfortunately, late-term abortion for the reasons of disability adds to the view of a lot of people in this society that people with disabilities are somewhat less than human, and that view unfortunately is a fact of life.”
Damien Drum MP (Nat) made these insightful comments:
“Again it has been put to me — and I believe this — that a later stage abortion is just as traumatic. We may as well deliver a live baby and do our utmost to keep that baby alive as abort the baby and have that baby killed. If it is just as traumatic on the mother and if the mother turns her back and does not want the baby, then it is society's obligation, in my opinion, to put the resources around that baby to give it a chance — any chance, the best chance. We afford this baby the status of life as a person on one hand, and then on the other hand we say, 'No, no. It's not a baby at all, not a person at all. It's just some thing, and we can choose whatever way we want to treat this thing'.”
In her speech in reply, Rachel Carling Jenkins MP (DLP) re-iterated points made in her second reading speech and explanatory memorandum that the neonatal provisions in the Bill do not require children to receive unnecessary care and spoke of the importance of appropriate palliative care for neonates.
She pointed out that late-term abortion are occurring in almost equal numbers for fetal abnormalities and for psychosocial reasons. In 2011 a child was aborted at 37 weeks gestation — a perfectly healthy child.
Rachel Carling-Jenkins MP concluded the debate with this question:
“Are members going to vote for the continuation of late-term abortion and against a supportive, balanced approach to caring for mothers and their babies, or will members vote for a change, for an end to the unnecessary sacrifice of viable children and for a more supportive and balanced approach to health care? As we go to this vote today I wish to finish with the words of William Wilberforce: 'You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know'. I commend this bill to the house.”
The packed gallery rose to its feet and applauded a valiant effort in truth telling and human rights advocacy by the brave MLC. The President sat quietly and let it happen. A moment that will be treasured by the pro-life movement in Victoria for some time.
The vote was 11 for, 27 against with 2 abstaining.
Clearly this is not the end but the beginning for those in Victoria passionate about bringing forward the truth of life in the womb and the need to protect it.
The campaign for the Bill was supported by a committee, which I was privileged to chair.
The committee consisted of representatives of Family Voice Australia, Pro-Life Victoria,
Australian Family Association, Right to Life, National Civic Council, Life, Salt Shakers, Voice for The Babies, Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, Vantage Point Church, Church By The Bay & Australian Christian Lobby.
Special commendation to Mariana Hladick for her professional and patient work as project officer.
Please write to the following MLCs who voted for the Infant Viability Bill to thank them for their stand for pre-born children:
The members who voted for the Bill were:
Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins (Democratic Labour) [email protected]
Ms Melina Bath (National) [email protected]
Mr Jeff Bourman (Shooters & Fishers) [email protected]
Hon Richard Dalla-Riva (Liberal) [email protected]
Hon Damian Drum (National) [email protected]
Mr Nazih Elasmar (Labor) [email protected]
Mr Bernie Finn (Liberal) [email protected]
Mr Daniel Mulino (Labour) [email protected]
Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips (Liberal) [email protected]
Hon Adem Somyurek (Labor) [email protected]
Mr Daniel Young (Shooters & Fishers) [email protected]