A controversial bill to stop Medicare funding gender selective abortions is a move aimed at restricting women’s right to choose and would put them in harms way, according to a number of senators.
The bill, which was introduced by independent senator John Madigan, will amend legislation that gives women access to Medicare for abortions, by banning payments for abortions on the basis of gender, but might not be voted on until next year.
Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has thrown his support behind the bill, referring to the UN’s declaration on the rights of women and children, saying that the bill would empower women, although conceded that there is “very little, maybe no evidence” of gender-selective terminations in Australia, according to The Guardian.
“Are we prepared to uphold rights of girls and women? Are we prepared to address the multiple manifestations of gender discrimination?” he said.
“This is not a choice based in anything but selfishness, terminating a child based on gender is the most selfish decision anyone could make.”
Liberal senator Chris Back who has previously practised as a vet, also made comments in favour of the bill, telling the senate that foetuses are able to self-terminate and can understand if they won’t survive post-birth.
“Foetuses have the capacity to somehow understand in circumstances they might not survive post-foetal life. Natural miscarrying does occur because of some innate capacity of the foetus to understand it won’t survive post-foetal life,” he said.
Labor Senator Claire Moore said that while she doesn’t support gender-based abortions, she wasn’t convinced amending the legislation was the correct way to deal with it and said the bill was a deflection on the issue of abortion.
“If you are concerned about the issue of abortion in Australia, take up the debate on those issues, do not hide behind putting a guilt trip on women about possible choices they make and hiding behind an argument that is based on the very document created to ensure women are empowered,” Moore said.
Her colleague, senator Sue Lines also warned against the potential consequences, saying that passing the bill was the first step in making abortion difficult to access.
“Bills are often crafted over time so abortion becomes more difficult to access,” she said.
“And I have to say, and I don’t wish to offend anyone in this chamber, but it is always men who seem to lead the charge for somehow curtailing women’s rights to abortion.”
Greens senator and former practising doctor Richard Di Natale said the issue of gender-selective abortion was “non existent” in Australia and the bill would only put women at increased risk.
When you prevent women from having a termination, you don’t reduce the number of terminations – you just put women at risk.”
“The numbers don’t change,” he said. “The only thing that changes is that women die.”