IT was less than a stellar performance.
Abortion advocate State Member for Cairns Rob Pyne failed to answer questions and skirted others on September 14 as he appeared before a parliamentary committee examining his second abortion bill – the Health (Abortion Law Reform) Amendment Bill 2016.
Questioned during a 45-minute briefing session in front of the parliamentary health committee on the day, Mr Pyne admitted he did not expect parliament would pass his first abortion bill, and he demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the findings of the 135-page committee report on that bill, and about how both his proposed bills could operate in practice.
Mr Pyne even ruled out that parents could ever use abortion for “gender selection” if they were not happy with the gender of their unborn child.
He introduced his second abortion bill last month, before the committee had even handed down its report into his first bill – the Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016.
The committee report recommended Mr Pyne’s first abortion bill should not be passed.
During the health committee briefing, he was forced to take on notice questions about conscientious objection to conducting abortion, and why declared protection zones around abortion clinics should be set at 50m.
“I’m not sure where, to be honest, that fifty-metre exclusion zone was drawn from,” Mr Pyne said.
He down-played concerns raised in the report about links between abortion and breast cancer and the mental health effects on women following a termination.
Mr Pyne said there was a “high degree of scepticism from the working group I am working with about those mental health issues”.
And he said he believed the evidence around women’s mental health issues post abortion was “inconsistent and inconclusive”.
At one point during the briefing, committee chair and Member for Nudgee Leanne Linard appeared frustrated at Mr Pyne’s responses and challenged him: “Have you read our report, Member for Cairns?”
“Yes,” he said.
Committee member and Member for Gaven Sid Cramp asked Mr Pyne how, under his second proposed bill, doctors would deal with “failed” terminations – when aborted babies were born alive.
“Can you provide me with some insight into how this bill is going to manage that situation if and when it occurs?” Mr Cramp said.
“No I can’t,” Mr Pyne said.
“I was aware there had certainly been this case put forward of live births of children that have been aborted but were viable and my understanding is that investigations by The Courier-Mail and other agencies had found that not to be correct.”
In fact, Health Minister Cameron Dick released Health Department figures in June which showed 27 babies were born alive following abortion procedures in 2015.
Since 2005 the total number of babies who survived an abortion but were not given care was 204.
Mr Pyne was unequivocal about the possibility that abortion could ever be used for gender selection.
“To suggest that a healthy viable foetus would be aborted over hair colour or gender to me would show an appalling view of Queensland women and doctors that anyone would carry out or wish to have carried out,” he said.
“I think there’s no evidence for it whatsoever. I think it’s an appalling proposition. I don’t think it has ever happened and I don’t think it ever will.”
Mr Cramp said: “Okay, so you are totally discounting that people do not engage in gender selection and do not consider it? And you’re proposing this will never happen in Queensland?”
“The late-term abortion on the basis of hair colour, yes, I do not think will ever happen in Queensland,” Mr Pyne said.
He admitted his second bill did not include provision to educate women about the effects of abortion, and it did not address the possible mental health impacts either.
Member for Cleveland Dr Mark Robinson was one of a small group to observe Mr Pyne’s performance before the health committee.
“He is just in cloud-cuckoo land,” Dr Robinson said.
“Mr Pyne doesn’t understand his own legislation. He doesn’t understand the implications of what he has put up.
“He has been sent into the parliament by pro-abortion advocates who want reform and change in that area, yet what is being put forward is confused, weakens our laws and doesn’t achieve any positive outcomes for babies, women or families.
“Both bills are bad bills and should be voted down in the Parliament.”
Queensland Australian Christian Lobby Queensland director Wendy Francis said Mr Pyne appeared to be “totally out of his depth addressing the committee”.
“Perhaps the most shocking of his statements for me personally was that he said he viewed reports of women suffering mental health issues post-abortion with a ‘high degree of scepticism’,” she said.
“Mr Pyne has once again shown great disrespect for women and children in the irresponsible way he has approached the issue of abortion.”
By Mark Bowling