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Monday, 01 March 2021 05:18

The Slaughter of the South Australian Innocents

Written by Fr John Fleming

The vile South Australian abortion bill has passed the House of Assembly.  Its smooth passage was inadvertently aided by some slipshod, though well-meaning, opposition to the legislation.  In ceding ground to the radicals, right-to-life proponents just make the passage of this kind of legislation all too easy.


The tactics employed by those who opposed the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in the House of Assembly of the South Australian Parliament contributed significantly to the passing of the Bill and were marked by moral and political incoherence.  In making this claim I will address the tactics used by those who voted against the Bill, what abortion per se involves, the failure of the Parliament to address the question of fundamental human rights where abortion is concerned, the triumph of ideology over facts, the unrepresentative views of female politicians in South Australia in the House of Assembly, and the stubborn refusal of politicians to confront the reality of abortion.

The tactics used by those who voted against the Bill

Throughout the debate in the House of Assembly, those who opposed the Bill stated clearly their in-principle support for one of the primary purposes of the Bill.  Sam Duluk MP, Member for Waite, expressed it this way:

As the member for Playford put in his remarks just then, I do not think there are too many in this entire house who do not support moving the bill from the criminal code to a general healthcare code.

And the Hon. A. Koutsantonis MP (West Torrens), leading the charge against the Bill, said this:

… the truth is that in the 21st century, in agreeing with my friend the member for Kavel, yes, this matter should be completely contemplated within a healthcare provision of an act rather than the Criminal Law Consolidation Act. It is unfair on people who are being confronted with abortion that they are subject to the Criminal Law Consolidation Act. It should be within the Health Care Act—that I accept.

In immediately and enthusiastically endorsing the removal of the provisions for lawful abortion from the criminal law to health law, the opponents of the Bill endorsed the framing of the matter of late-term abortions in the way so expertly set by the Attorney-General, the Hon Vickie Chapman MP, whose private member’s Bill it was.

Abortion involves the intentional killings of innocent human beings.  A democratic society acts to protect the right to life of its citizens by containing a universal prohibition against killing the innocent with criminal penalties applying.

The current Criminal Law Consolidation Act in South Australia allows abortion in certain circumstances as an exception to the general law against killing the innocent.  To abandon that context within which we should understand abortion is, effectively, to no longer see abortion as an act in which a child is deliberately and intentionally killed to meet the needs of adults.  It is to see abortion as the removal of unwanted tissue, no different in moral and legal terms from removing an appendix.  It is no longer to be seen for what it truly is.

With the opponents of this Bill surrendering the framework desired by the radical abortion fanatics, they effectively neutered any real and sustained discussion about the ethics of abortion.  Yet that is precisely what the real objection to abortion up to birth entailed, the killing of a child still viable in the womb.

The opponents of abortion no doubt thought (if that word can justly be applied here) that they were improving their chances of knocking out late-term abortions.  But they were too smart by half because they had surrendered the moral high ground to the abortion lobby which is strongly entrenched in the health bureaucracy and upon whose advice throughout the debate Ms Chapman conspicuously relied.

What Australians think about abortion not represented in the debate

Abortion is about the intentional killing of a child, an act with which the majority of Australians disagree.  The best evidence shows just how conflicted Australians are about abortion.  At first blush, Australians say they want abortion to be freely available, but when asked specific questions about when it should be legal and if it is morally acceptable, support for free access to abortion becomes so qualified that legislators should not ignore those qualifications when making new law about abortion.

In late July 2019, the United States Studies Centre (USSC) and YouGov polled 1,800 Americans and 1,820 Australians about their attitudes to abortion.[1]

In that survey, 62% of Australian women agreed with the proposition, “By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice”.  Although that proposition is a very broadly worded endorsement of an extreme position, it is sufficient to show that more than a third of Australians women do not accept the rhetoric of “a woman’s right to choose”.

In an exhaustive study of Australian attitudes to abortion[2], we find a more nuanced appreciation of how deeply conflicted Australians are about legal abortion.  When specifically asked what abortions should be lawful, only diagnosed disability in the child received majority support.

Moreover, there was only 33% support for late-term abortion with 48% of those who self-identified as being strongly pro-abortion agreeing to legalise late-term abortions.  And generally, in the cases involving a healthy foetus and no abnormal health risks to the mother, only 33% supported legal abortion.

When asked whether they supported unrestricted access to abortion, 37% of the sample (n=1200) strongly agreed, 25% somewhat agreed.  So, already we find that of those who support free access to abortion, 40% of those do not do so in an unqualified way.  And since 34% of the sample either disagreed strongly or somewhat disagreed then we find that 65% of Australians do not accept in an unqualified way access to abortion.

When asked about what the law should provide as legal abortion, 85% supported the provision of abortion for severe disabilities in the child and 60% for mild disabilities in the child.  Thereafter, support for legal abortion fell away dramatically.  The highest support for other categories of abortion were: “financial hardship” 39%, late-term abortion 33%, and change to lifestyle 29%.

The main cause for a lack of support for nearly all categories of justification for lawful abortion is no doubt because Australians have deep-seated moral objections to the practice.  The research found that there was support for abortion on moral grounds only in cases of severe disabilities in the child, 67%.  Support for the moral permissibility of abortion for mild disabilities in the child was 47%.

When it comes to late-term abortions, there was only 23% support.  Even among those who self-described as “strongly pro-abortion”, only 36% of them thought that it was morally justified.  Most other categories of justification for an abortion receive support from less than 20%.

So just “what” is being aborted?  61% of those who self-described as strongly pro-abortion believed that that the foetus is not a “person”.  In all other subgroups (somewhat pro-abortion, neutral, somewhat anti-abortion, strongly anti-abortion) a majority could not be found to believe that the foetus is not a person.  Overall, 58% of the whole sample believed that the foetus a human person.  This no doubt explains just why so many Australians can give no moral approval for abortion and why they qualify support for legal abortion by being unable to give support for most categories of reasons given to justify legal abortion.

The stubborn refusal of politicians to confront the reality of abortion

Most parliamentarians in the South Australian Parliament simply did not engage strongly enough with the reason why most Australians disagree with abortion in most instances.  Even though the foetus was frequently referred to as a baby by supporters of the legislation, and especially by the Bill’s architect, Vickie Chapman, the House of Assembly did not come to grips with what this piece of legislation was all about.

If they had done so, then no doubt it would have concentrated people’s minds more finely on just what is involved not only in late-term abortions but abortions in general.

The utter confusion in the minds of opponents of the Bill was well exemplified by Mr Cregan MP (Kavel):

This bill raises the most essential moral and ethical questions any member can be asked to resolve. I have considered this bill carefully. I have agonised over it. I believe that women should not have to navigate the criminal code in order to understand their reproductive health rights. Accordingly, it would be better if terminations were dealt with in health legislation. Nevertheless, this bill is so deeply flawed in its present form that I cannot in good conscience support it.

He does not identify just what are the “essential moral and ethical questions” to which he refers.  He said he “believes” that women should not have to “navigate the criminal code in order to understand their reproductive rights”.  But abortion is not a reproductive right; it is about terminating the life of a child once the woman has reproduced.  He then concluded that it would be better if “terminations” were in health legislation.  How a woman is better able to “navigate” the issues there is not explained.

The reasoning here is bizarre because the existing law clearly states that no one is guilty of a felony or misdemeanour if they have an abortion according to law.  And when women present to doctors for an abortion the doctor is meant to tell them if they qualify or not.

Moreover, although politicians on both sides of the debate constantly referred to difficult moral and ethical questions, the fact of the matter is that once one accepts that it is always wrong to kill an innocent fellow human being, the ethical and moral questions are easily resolved.  So, too, the medical issues.  What remains are social issues the resolution of which cannot be medical and surgical because that is not what good medicine is about.

SK Knoll MP (Schubert) again exemplified the superficiality of argument used in this debate by making assertions, none of which he proved by evidence.

Unfortunately, these debates can often be characterised in the media and more broadly as being a binary choice: that you are either with us or you are against us. In this instance, I think there is sensible middle ground. I think that from the conversations I have had with members of my community, decriminalising abortion is a positive step. I think that it is, again, a question that was settled some 50 years ago.

Knoll, along with the rest of the opponents of the Bill, seems to have thought that muddying the waters by referring to a “sensible middle ground” was the way to go.  He told us but did not prove, what he thinks some people told him, and then declared that decriminalisation was a “positive step” without telling us why.  His further assertion that this matter was “settled some 50 years ago” is obviously wrong because, if that was true, there would be no need to decriminalise abortion now.

The thing is this: once the law relating to abortion was opened up, it was entirely proper for members of parliament to fully scrutinise just what abortion is and whether the law should be tightened, made more restrictive, and the extent to which any society should provide exceptions to what used to be (and, in reality, still is) the obligation of the Parliament to protect impartially the right to life of all members of the human community.  Instead, those opposed to the Chapman radical reform, failed, in any meaningful way, to discharge the first obligation of government, to protect the citizenry.

The failure of the Parliament to address the question of fundamental human rights where abortion is concerned

The unborn child’s right to life is protected in all UN human rights documents, and especially the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  These two documents provide the prism through which all other UN Covenants and Conventions are to be interpreted.  I have provided a systematic account of that elsewhere.  Here in brief is what Australia has signed up to.

Fundamental human rights apply to every member of the human family.

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. (UDHR, preamble)

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."  (UDHR, Article 3)

The universality of this proposition is further specified in both the UDHR the ICCPR.

"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."  ICCPR, Article 6-1

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. [UDHR Article 2, ICCPR Article 2 (1) CRC Article 2.1]

“Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”  (UDHR Article 6, ICCPR Article 16)

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law’.  (UDHR Article 7; ICCPR Article26

Where capital punishment is concerned, international law makes it clear that a pregnant woman shall not be executed.

Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.  (Article 6(5) ICCPR)

The principal reason for the inclusion of this provision was to save the life of an innocent unborn child. [Made clear in the travaux préparatoires of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966]

The explicit recognition that the right to life must be enjoyed by every member of the human family is clear everywhere in international law but is more honoured in the breach than in the observance.  The practice of states must be modified to fit in with the universal recognition of human rights.  So,

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance, and that all children, before or after birth or whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the social protection of their family, society and the State without any discrimination;

(Universal Declaration Article 25.2, ICESCR Article10. 2 and10. 3, ICCPR 23.1 & 24.1 CRC Preamble)

At no time in the debate in the South Australian House of Assembly was there consideration of Australia’s human rights obligations to which we freely signed up many years ago.  So there was no sustained and explicit defence of the right of every human being to the protection of the law, which makes the moving of the provision for abortion on request heinous in itself, and the moving of the regulation of abortion out of the criminal law and into health law simply wicked.

The triumph of ideology over facts

What was on full display in the South Australian Parliament was the shameless triumph of ideology over both fact and reason, and the further manifestation of malice towards the unborn conceived entirely in the context of what some adults want and demand.  There is no need to reproduce the heartlessly immoral attitude of so many to the unborn child, and the relentless pursuit of adult rights and interests over and against those of the children who are killed in legal abortion.

The ideology of the women’s movement “my body my right” is clearly wrong-headed.  The woman’s body is invaded by the medication or surgical tools used to abort. The body of the child is not only invaded, he or she is denied the environment essential for survival.

Female politicians unrepresentative of women

There are 12 female parliamentarians in the South Australian House of Assembly.  Of these 12 women, only one voted against the Bill, the Member for Enfield, Ms Andrea Michaels (ALP).  Each female Liberal Party Member voted in favour of the Bill.  This is extraordinary given the diversity of opinions to be found among the female half of the population.

That only one female politician out of 12 could oppose easy access to late-term abortions up to birth indicates how out of step female politicians are with the moral and social values of women generally as the research indicates.


The South Australian Parliament rendered unborn children invisible as far as human rights are concerned.  The defence of their fundamental right to live (the sine qua non of all other rights) was muted.  Those opposing this wicked legislation tripped themselves up with a tactic, in agreement with that of the Christian lobby under the direction of Chris Brohier, which crippled their opposition from the get-go.  In accepting the framing of the legislation provided by the heartless promoters of the Chapman Bill, they downplayed the gravity of the issues at stake and not surprising lost.

There were some achievements by way of amendments to the Bill.  The only amendments of real substance were those which made sex-selection abortion unlawful, and required medical staff to exercise their duty of care to a child born alive after an abortion.

The weakness and political ineptitude of the opposition to the Bill are best exemplified by the reported comments of David Speirs MP:

Mr Speirs said while he always supported decriminalising abortion, there were aspects of the bill he did not support.

"There were some changes and not all the changes that I wanted got up," Mr Speirs told ABC Radio Adelaide.

"What we saw last night in my view was a historic step forward in terms of moving abortion from the criminal code to the health code.

"I think that's a great thing for women."

But it was a lousy deal for unborn children, a deal agreed to by opponents and proponents of the Chapman Bill.


[1] “Attitudes towards abortion in Australia and the United States”, 6 September 2019,

[2] Southern Cross Bioethics Institute Survey 2007, John Fleming and Nicholas Tonti-Filippini (eds), Common Ground? Seeking an Australian Consensus on Abortion and Sex Education (2007), 47-92