RATE OF ABORTION HIGHLIGHTS OUR MORAL FAILINGS
Posted on Wednesday, 17 March 2004
Christians aren’t required to right every wrong in the political arena,
but they can help change the nation’s culture, suggests Tony Abbott
DESPITE the debt that political institutions owe to the West’s Christian heritage, there is the constant claim that Christians in politics are confused about the separation of church and state. There’s also a tendency among Christians in the community to think that Christians in politics have to sell out their principles in order to survive.
Christian politicians are often warding off simultaneous accusations that
they are zealots or fakes. Indeed, the public caricature of a Christian politician is hypocrite or wuss, in denial about the ruthlessness and expediency necessary to wield power, or too sanctimonious to be effective.
Take the challenge of abortion. The problem with the Australian practice
of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience. Aborting a first trimester fetus is not morally identical to deliberately killing a living human being, but it’s not just removing a wart or a cyst either. Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year.
What does it say about the state of our relationships and our values
that so many women (and their husbands, lovers and families) feel
incapable of coping with a pregnancy or a child?
To a pregnant 14-year-old struggling to grasp what’s happening, for example, example, a senior student with a whole life mapped out or a mother already failing to cope under difficult circumstances, abortion is the easy way out.
It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient
exit from awkward situations. What seems to be considered far less often is avoiding situations where difficult choices might arise.
Our society has rightly terrified primary school children about the horrors of smoking, but seems to take it for granted that adolescents will have sex despite the grim social consequences of teenage single parenthood.
If half the effort were put into discouraging teenage promiscuity as goes into preventing teenage speeding, there might be fewer abortions, fewer traumatised young women and fewer dysfunctional families.
Why isn’t the fact that 100,000 women choose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy approaching the scale, say, of Aboriginal life expectancy being 20 years less than that of the general community?
No one wants to recreate the backyard abortion clinic (or to stigmatise the millions of Australians who have had abortions or encouraged others to do so). But is it really so hard to create a culture where people understand that actions have consequences and take their responsibilities seriously?
As a local MP, I am regularly challenged over the Government’s policy on the detention of boatpeople. “HOW can you live with yourself as a Catholic,” the argument runs, “when your Government treats women and children with such cruelty?” When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boatpeople, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.
Christians are not required to right every wrong. Christian politicians are
not required to promote policies for which there is no demand in the
community. As it happens, the Government gives nearly $1 million a year to pro-life family planning groups (but $13 million to pro-choice groups) and provides $250,000 to the Federation of Pregnancy Support Services.
In numerous important ways, the Howard Government has not been a creature of the zeitgeist. The Government has, for example, facilitated the parliamentary overthrow of the Northern Territory’s assisted suicide law, banned human cloning and, most recently, sought to allow Catholic
schools to offer scholarships to male teachers. Even so, as a measure of the moral health of our society, 100,000 terminated babies is a statistic that offers no comfort at all.
Tony Abbott is Leader of the House and federal Health Minister. This is an edited extract from his address to the Adelaide University Democratic Club yesterday.