Swing to life
Published: 31 October 2010
By: Paul Dobbyn
Panel members: At the recent Queensland Parliamentary Annexe media conference to announce the release of the survey "What Queenslanders Really Think About Abortion" are, from left, Alan Baker, Luke McCormack, Dr Katrina Harlow, Dr Maria Menkens and Teresa Martin
A NEW survey "What Queenslanders Really Think About Abortion" warns that an average swing of 12 per cent would be generated against members of State Parliament who voted in favour of decriminalising abortion.
The report has been sent in booklet form to all 89 members of the State Parliament aimed to convince those politicians in the middle the issue of abortion is much more complicated than is commonly presented.
Australian Family Association (AFA) spokesman Alan Baker told a media conference at the launch of the report at the Parliamentary Annexe last Monday, the independent opinion poll also showed there had been no swing in favour of decriminalising abortion since a recent Cairns trial related to abortion.
A Cairns jury on October 14 found a woman not guilty of procuring an abortion and a man not guilty of supplying drugs to procure an abortion.
Mr Baker also described the 13-question survey as being "much more transparent" and going much deeper than pro-abortion surveys which only "skim the surface" with questions along the lines of: "Do you support women's right to choose?"
The survey, conducted between October 15 and 17 on behalf of AFA by independent market research firm Galaxy Research, appeared to confirm Premier Anna Bligh's political wisdom in opposing calls to undertake a wider review of Queensland's abortion laws.
Mr Baker was part of a media conference panel comprising pro-life doctors Maria Menkens and Katrina Harlow, Cherish Life Queensland state president Teresa Martin and Voters For Life spokesman Luke McCormack.
Dr Menkens, who works in paediatrics, said abortion was a much greater danger to a mother's mental and physical health than pregnancy with increased risks of depression (up 35 per cent), suicide (up 300 per cent) and premature delivery in subsequent births.
Dr Harlow, a counsellor to young people at risk, said the decision to have an abortion "puts young people in contact with the darker side of their persona with which they will have to grapple for the rest of their life".
Ms Martin said the law should be "both educative and protective" and that society should be aware there were "real options to abortion".
Mr McCormack spoke of a "humble education program" in 2009 which targeted the seat of former Labor MP Bonny Barry, who was intending to introduce a bill to decriminalise abortion, and his belief the campaign had contributed to her defeat.
Mr Baker, summing up the findings of the survey, and in response to a question from the floor said the main message the survey contained for Premier Bligh was Queenslanders "were not only conflicted but unsure and cautious about decriminalising abortion and wanted safeguards for women making such a choice".
The research showed, for example, Queens-landers were split on whether abortion involved taking human life, with half (50 per cent) saying it did and 42 per cent saying no, with seven per cent undecided.
Mr Baker said, however, almost everyone (94 per cent) believed a woman should receive free independent counselling and information so she can make a fully informed decision.
"And 88 per cent of respondents favoured a cooling-off period for women considering abortion," he said.
"Experience shows if such safeguards were introduced the number of abortions would be significantly reduced."
Voters' intentions regarding decriminalisation of abortion were also canvassed.
"Fifty-five per cent said it would make no difference to their voting intentions," Mr Baker said.
"However, 26 per cent said they would be less likely to vote for a Member of Parliament supporting decriminalisation of abortion.
"While 14 per cent said it would make them more likely to vote in their favour.
"This represents an average swing of 12 per cent."
Dr Menkens said current abortion laws protected doctors adequately and expressed concern legislative changes in Queensland could take away the right of doctors and health workers to conscientiously object to procuring abortions.
Dr Harlow said there were as many unwanted abortions as unwanted pregnancies.
"It's traumatic for everyone involved - siblings, parents, grandparents," she said.
Ms Martin said women considering abortion should be educated to become aware that other options existed such as "gifting a child to couples unable to have children".
Mr McCormack described Voters for Life as a "grass roots special task force operating across a broad cross-section of pro-life groups at election time".
"I'd like to say to the radical fringe (seeking to change Queensland's abortion laws) we know what you're up to and Queenslanders when they find out will demonstrate their opinion at the ballot box," he said.
Complete results of the survey are available at: http://www.family.org.au/index.php