DECRIMINALISING abortion would result in a dramatic increase in the number of terminations performed in public hospitals, a medical expert has told the Queensland parliamentary inquiry into legalising abortion.
Dr Carol Portmann, former director of maternal and foetal medicine at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, who now performs abortions up to 20 weeks as part of her private gynaecology practice, told the inquiry the proportion of abortions would jump from two per cent to “twenty to twenty-five per cent”.
Dr Portmann said Queensland Health would have to support public hospitals to cater for this increase in demand.
Queensland public hospitals only perform “therapeutic terminations” (abortions carried out legally because of a serious danger to the woman’s physical or mental health), while 16 private clinics perform the other 98 per cent of abortions which are mainly for financial or social reasons.
This could mean that the number of abortions done in the public hospital system would rise from 295 (out of about 14,000 done in Queensland each year) to more like 3000 – a 10-fold increase.
Dr Portmann said the “health culture” in Queensland public hospitals would make it difficult to find medical and nursing staff who would be “happy to be involved on a regular basis” in meeting the demand for more abortions.
She said that over time “a significant cultural shift” would occur so that abortion would be considered “part of routine medical care”.
Cherish Life Queensland president Julie Borger said this would corrupt the public hospital system and put great pressure on pro-life doctors and nurses to participate in abortions against their conscience.
Professor David Ellwood, of Griffith University, who told the inquiry he had been performing abortions for more than 30 years, said late-term abortions in Queensland typically were sometimes done by feticide.
He said this was “a procedure where, under ultrasound guidance, a needle is inserted into the foetal heart and an injection of potassium chloride is given which stops the heart”.
The mother would then be induced and deliver a dead baby.
On the question of feticide, Dr Portmann said “we still believe it is kinder to do that before doing a surgical procedure to ensure the baby has passed away … That is basically because we do not want any chance of pain (for the baby).”
Mrs Borger said because of the Queensland law, public hospitals only did late-term abortions for foetal abnormality or a serious threat to the mother’s physical health.
“If decriminalisation occurs, abortion for any reason would allow mid to late-term abortions for sex selection and for other ‘psycho-social’ reasons, such as desertion of a partner, as occurs in Victoria,” she said.
Mrs Borger said reports showed that in the two years after Victoria decriminalised abortion in 2008, the number of late-term abortions performed at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne was six times higher – from once a fortnight to three a week.
She said that in Victoria, in 2010 and 2011 combined – the most recent years for which figures have been released – more than half of the 744 late-term abortions were done for “psycho-social” reasons, that is, on healthy women carrying healthy babies.
“Is this what we want for Queensland babies and mothers?” Mrs Borger asked.
She said the pro-abortion lobby gave evidence to the inquiry that decriminalisation would not increase the number of abortions, yet at the same time claimed that some women had not been able to gain access to an abortion because of remoteness from an abortion clinic or lack of money.
“They cannot have it both ways. Obviously, if these women who allegedly cannot access abortion under the current law would be able to obtain it under a decriminalisation regime, then numbers must increase.
“More abortions would hurt more women. With every abortion, the toll is one dead, one wounded.
“We need to look for better ways to support families and not go for the ‘quick-fix’ of abandoning women to abortion and all its harmful consequences.”
Mrs Borger encouraged pro-lifers to write urgently to their state MPs to express their opposition to decriminalisation of abortion, as the Pyne Bill could be debated by Parliament as early as the first week of September.
She said more information on the campaign could be obtained at www.abortionrethink.org.