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Bill to protect kids ‘born alive’

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Hundreds of babies have been born alive after abortions in Australia in recent years – 33 in Victoria in one year. In Queensland doctors and nurses are required by law to not provide life-saving treatment on such occasions. There’s something deeply wrong with this, insist three Australian senators.

On 30 November Senators Matthew Canavan, Alex Antic and Ralph Babet introduced a new Bill to protect children who are born alive during an abortion, following the defeat of Senator George Christensen’s similar private bill in April.

The Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill would make it an offence by law across the country if health practitioners do not provide medical care or treatment to a child born alive after a failed abortion.

A child born alive as the result of an abortion would have to be given the same medical care (active treatment and/or palliative care) as if the child was born alive in the usual way. Mothers would not be held liable for prosecution if the child was left by health practitioners to die unaided.

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It would also make health practitioners responsible for reporting births of children born alive as a result of terminations, to correct the problem of insufficient data.

Introducing the Bill, Senator Canavan said that 33 babies aborted after 20 weeks gestation were born alive in Victoria in one year, while in Queensland, 204 babies were reported to be born alive as a result of abortion over a 10-year period.

Furthermore, Queensland Health’s clinical guidelines for termination of pregnancy obliges health professionals, if a live birth occurs during an abortion, to not provide life sustaining treatment but merely document the time and date of death, he said. “How is this policy, how are these deaths, in accordance with our international obligation as a nation to every child having the right to life, every child having access to health care and reducing the deaths of babies?” he asked.

“How are we treating our most vulnerable, and what does it say about our nation?”

The senators say that denying such children medical care and treatment places Australia in breach of its international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which codify the right to life and quality healthcare.

Abortion returned to the forefront of politics this year, with the US Supreme Court overturning its 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling in June. An Australian federal parliamentary inquiry is underway into expanding access to contraception and abortion.

National director of politics for the Australian Christian Lobby Wendy Francis said the legislation will provide care to the “most vulnerable among us. It is hard to imagine that any parliamentarian would believe that a viable life should be left to die because they are inconvenient or considered not worth living,” she said.

Critics of the Bill say that it is either not relevant or burdensome to termination practitioners, including Monash University research fellow in global and women’s health, Dr Shelly Makleff, telling media it is “another move in a playbook to create more barriers in abortion care” and that similar bills in the US are widely agreed to be medically unnecessary.

Related:

The abortion conversation we need to start having

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