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Medicare funding for late abortion needs re-examination - 01 November 2004

Medicare funding for late term abortions needs to be re-examined said spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Kath Woolf. Ms Woolf was responding to comments today by parliamentary secretary for health, Christopher Pyne, who called for a ban on late term abortions.

"This would include stopping Medicare funding for late term abortions, which don't address women's real problems," Ms Woolf said. "The Australian public should not be obliged to pay for a procedure which has no medical justification.

"A doctor's resolution to perform a late term abortion has two parts - the decision to end a pregnancy and the decision to ensure that the unborn child is born dead. If a post-twenty week pregnancy presents difficulties for the mother's health, inducing birth is all that is needed. Efforts can then be made to support the child's life.

"Late term abortion clearly goes beyond community standards. In 2000 a 32-week old child with suspected dwarfism was aborted at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne. In 1999 'Baby J', a 22-week old child was aborted in the Northern Territory and lived for 80 minutes, with no attempt to assist her survival. Australian late term abortion specialist, Dr David Grundmann, has said he is willing to do abortions to 30 weeks.

"Last week the Adelaide Advertiser reported that most late term abortions in South Australia involve healthy babies because of late diagnosis of pregnancy, difficulty making up minds, a break-up of a relationship or in rare cases a pre-existing psychiatric condition. South Australia is the only state to publish detailed statistics.

"But it is not enough to just stop funding. The Federal Government should work to create a community which better supports women and their children.

"There are positive ways to reduce the abortion rate, but they require a concerted effort across the Government's portfolios to both reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and the difficulties women face when they are pregnant.

"Women do not want abortions, but resort to them because they find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We should be working to change the circumstances - not to continue to push the interests of the abortion industry."

Contact:    Kath Woolf, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, telephone 02 6253 3100