This week on voice for values, what does the prime minister think of the babies who survive abortions only to be left to die?

Find out what led Ashley Leong, a young medical student, to bring this issue to the Prime Minister on national television.





Lyle Shelton:                         Well hello and welcome to Voice for Values radio. It’s Lyle Shelton coming to you once again from Canberra, the nation’s capital. To start this program, I’ve got something a little different to the usual. Listeners might remember about two weeks before the federal election, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program and he was asked a very pointed question by a very courageous young woman. Have a listen to this.

[Ashley Leong]:                      “Mr Prime Minister. Twenty-seven babies aged five months gestation or more survived late-term abortions in Queensland hospitals last year and this is the highest number of survivals following attempted terminations in ten years. But each of these twenty-seven babies were not rendered care and allowed to die. As a medical student who has seen many deliveries and loving care of premature babies, nothing is quite so horrifying as letting a baby perish in a clinic. Is it not the federal government’s onus to protect all citizens, especially those who cannot speak for themselves?”

[Malcolm Turnbull]:              “Ashley, can you explain the circumstances you’re talking about a little further? Of course the and if you were talking about the law that protects any citizen, any person regardless of their age from physical harm, that is the responsibility of government and criminal law in Queensland is obviously enacted by the Queensland parliament but what is the…”

[Tony Jones]:                         “We’re talking about late-term abortions here.” 

[Ashley Leong]:                      “Yeah. So all of these babies were more than five months old already and once they were born, there was no protection rendered for them. They were just left to perish. So what will your government do for situations such as these?”

[Malcolm Turnbull]:              “Well this is an area that is very much, the answer Ashley is that this is very much an area within the jurisdiction of the state government, and I’m not passing the buck there but that’s the fact. I’m not familiar with the precise terms of the law in Queensland relating to abortion, late-term or otherwise, but it’s very much a matter within the jurisdiction of the Queensland parliament.”

[Tony Jones]:                         “Now you’ve rarely been asked about your Roman Catholic beliefs but does any of this conflict with your religious beliefs?”

[Malcolm Turnbull]:              “Well what the, what Ashley describes is a shocking cases but you’ve asked me as the prime minister and the leader of the federal government what we can do about that but again I don’t know enough about the circumstances but the law that relates to abortion is very much within the jurisdiction of your parliament here in Queensland.”

Lyle Shelton:                         Well joining me on the line is the courageous, young medical student who asked that question of the prime minister, Ashley Leong. Ashley, welcome to Voice for Values.

Ashley Leong:                       Thanks so much for having me. It’s a very humbling experience and it’s all so new for me so yeah, I’m quite excited.

Lyle Shelton:                         Well, Ashley, if you’re going to stand up on national television and ask questions like that, you’re going to get noticed but it’s great to have you today. Now this is a very sensitive issue of course, and those of us here at the ACL and I’m sure the majority of our listeners today would be people who care deeply for the plight of the unborn. We’d see ourselves as pro-life but this is an issue that is not freely talked about but I think it’s one that needs to be discussed. Ashley, tell us why did you decide to ask a question like that on Q&A and of all nights, the night that the prime minister was appearing two weeks before a federal election. 

Ashley Leong:                       It was actually very timely for me because, so I’ve always been a big advocate for pro-life but on my Facebook news feed the week before, I saw an ABC News article being shared and on that ABC News article it described how twenty-seven babies had survived late-term abortions and so that was very much at the forefront of my mind. When I got an email from Q&A, they do a general call-out that people who are sitting in the audience on that night can ask a question so from there I thought it was really important to address that.

Lyle Shelton:                         So Ashley you had already registered to be part of the studio audience for Q&A which was being filmed in Brisbane that particular night.         

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah. So it’s a random ballot so you can register to be in the ballot. I had done that actually a few months before so the week before the Q&A show I got an email saying that through the ballot I had gotten a seat in the studio audience and then all the people in the studio audience they get another email about four days before the Monday that asked for you to submit questions.  

Lyle Shelton:                         Now you submitted a question based on that ABC News article on the issue of these babies being aborted but then surviving and then left to die and this came about as a result of a question asked in the Queensland parliament a few weeks ago by Mark Robinson. I think he was the member for Redlands, a very courageous, pro-life parliamentarian, and the answer he got back from the health minister was as you described and as you read out on Q&A.     

Ashley Leong:                       Yep. That’s exactly right and actually I’m a Cleveland girl. I grew up in Cleveland so I follow Mark Robinson because he’s the member for Cleveland, the Redlands area. So I’d just seen actually on his Facebook page. So he hadn’t spoken to me or anything like that before but I just followed him.            

Lyle Shelton:                         Excellent. 

Ashley Leong:                       And I saw that on my Facebook, yep.   

Lyle Shelton:                         So you’re following your local member of parliament, saw that he was passionate about this and had raised this issue in parliament. Were you surprised that Q&A accepted your question cause I’d imagine they’d get hundreds of questions from the studio audience submitted and obviously they can’t ask them all in a one-hour program.  

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah, exactly. Come to think of it, in retrospect, since I’ve been researching a bit more about this whole issue in terms of media in Australia, they’ve actually got a lot of left-wing exposure and in many cases exclusively left-wing pro-choice.

Lyle Shelton:                         Well I’m talking to Ashley Leong. She asked a very courageous question of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull two weeks before the election on Q&A about why babies that have been aborted and survived the procedure had been allowed to die without having medical assistance. We’ll be back just after this break to unpack more of this incredible experience that Ashley had on Q&A. Stick around.

                                                Okay. We’re back now with Voice for Values radio and I’m talking with Ashley Leong who shot to national prominence by asking a question of the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on Q&A two weeks before the election. Ashley your question was about babies who had been aborted after five months’ gestation, so very, very late-term abortions and then they’d survived the procedure and left to die. Now how does this happen? What’s your understanding of how on earth this occurs? I mean, the prime minister himself was shocked and fumbled his words as we heard earlier when we played the answer to your question. What’s going on here?

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah I have to say that I definitely wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the termination procedure and the circumstances surrounding each termination procedure. It’s possible that, and I’d say that pro-choice advocates would say that actually part of the termination procedure is inducing the baby so it leaves the womb and so it might, the baby may be alive technically in that it’s heart is beating and things like that but care is withheld as actually the baby can’t survive following the termination procedure.

Lyle Shelton:                         So let’s just unpack some of that terminology then. So some babies are aborted late-term by being induced and they’re alive while they’re being induced, expected to die during the induction process. Am I right in saying that?    

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah, that’s my understanding, like I haven’t witnessed a termination procedure before but I think yeah in some cases the induction is actually part of the late-term termination.   

Lyle Shelton:                         Now it could be the case, you mentioned twenty-seven babies and this was the answer from the health minister to Mark Robinson in the Queensland parliament, that twenty-seven babies had survived the procedure and then been left to die. Now some of these babies, and we don’t know the breakdown, might have had a lethal abnormality so might have been going to die anyway. Now these are very, very difficult and sensitive situations but certainly not all would have been in that circumstance because that’s, it’s very rare that a baby would have a lethal abnormality that would require some sort of intervention like this.

Ashley Leong:                       I would say that it’s important that if a baby would have an interest in living that we give the baby all the intervention it needs to be able to have that chance of life, and I would say that I guess that I’m worried that in any of the twenty-seven cases of babies surviving late-term abortions last year, while I would hope that best practice was observed in the withheld care in the very immediate aftermath of the induction as part of the termination, in the stickiness of these twenty-seven cases, I’d be worried that resuscitation wasn’t offered because the baby was either unwanted because the mother’s opinion played into it or the situation being messy as it was as a failed abortion just called for resuscitation not really being on the cards. So I think in terms of those situations it’s really important that we advocate for mechanisms from the state or from health departments to protect those babies in those situations.      

Lyle Shelton:                         That’s right. Now there’s a very a big threshold, ethical issue here which those of us who are pro-life subscribe to and that is that it’s simply wrong to kill a human life in the womb at any age. Every baby deserves the chance of life but sadly for a generation, we’ve accepted the idea of abortion on demand and even at late stages and there’s a big issue here as to why if an abortion fails, and failure means that a baby’s born alive, why that baby isn’t rendered assistance and I guess this is the big imponderable that no-one can seem to answer.      

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah and in terms of like this very niche area of a baby surviving a late termination, I think that in terms of providing intervention after this, my opinion has to necessarily buy into my pro-life opinion cause I view the long-term wellbeing to the baby as a result of this termination procedure as an inflicted harm that was unnecessary really in the course of the baby’s life, and so if there’s a potential chance that that baby still could survive and have a life and be interested in living despite all these physical assaults of the termination procedure, I’m worried that in any of those twenty-seven cases that chance wasn’t given to the baby and it’s really important that we advocate that all interventions that the baby would want provided. 

Lyle Shelton:                         Absolutely. I’ve had the very real privilege of meeting two people who have survived abortions, one of whom is named Gianna Jessen. I had the privilege of taking her around the federal parliament some years ago and she survived a failed saline abortion and a nurse called an ambulance and she’s alive today. She’s physically impaired as a result but there are small number of these people who do exist and yet our society does everything we can to ensure that they don’t exist. It was interesting Ashley, to see the prime minister really fumbling his words when you put your question to him. He didn’t know what to make of this.   

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah I think on the one hand it’s fair that he, it is a very specific situation and he’s just a human and he can’t know about everything but on the other hand it does question the fundamental of a pro-choice opinion and very real consequences that result from being pro-choice like for example these babies that are surviving late-term terminations and another thing as well is the state law is very much also influenced by federal law and there are precedents to federal law protecting certain groups of people so it’s very much a question that I think I would hope that now he’s had some time to engage with.

Lyle Shelton:                         Yeah I think you’re right. He tried to pass the buck and say it’s just a state law. That’s true to a point but federal law actually funds abortion through our compulsory Medicare Levy so you and I are paying for the sort of atrocities that are going on and the sort of thing that you describe so let’s hope…

Ashley Leong:                       Yeah definitely. Medicare can yeah in cases they will actually fund the abortions. 

Lyle Shelton:                         Yep. Ashley we’re just about out of time but tell us you’re a student at the University of Queensland, a medical student. What sort of feedback have you had from your friends and colleagues and even lecturers about your appearance on Q&A?      

Ashley Leong:                       In general, it hasn’t really been in concordance with my beliefs. They’re very much unconditionally invested in the autonomy of the mum and I’d say like people who are pro-choice, they also forget that the babies are a patient as well and that baby is a human. It’s obviously a really sensitive issue but in general, I’d say people disagree with my stance on the issue. 

Lyle Shelton:                         Well Ashley, good on you for being so courageous and for taking a stand that does go against the prevailing cultural winds. That is very courageous, to do that at your stage of life and at university. Thanks for putting this on the national agenda. This is an issue which the parties try and avoid at election times in particular but you caused the nation to confront the reality of this in a very public way and I hope it emboldens more people to speak out so Ashley, thanks for joining us today on Voice for Values radio.

Ashley Leong:                       No, thank you. It’s been a privilege.