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Dr Donna Purcell looks back on Cherish Life’s 50 years of pro-life work

Dr Donna Purcell: “I suppose, being a woman and a mother, … you also have a heart for all people in difficult circumstances but you also know the value of motherhood and family life.” Photo: Cherish Life

DONNA Purcell’s been fighting the good fight longer than most in the pro-life movement in Queensland and she’s not about to give up now.

As Cherish Life celebrates the pro-life movement’s 50th anniversary in the state, Dr Purcell is just as determined as she was when she joined as a medical student at the University of Queensland almost 45 years ago.

The mother-of-five and grandmother-of-10 is Cherish Life’s state president and branch president in her home town of Toowoomba.

Her commitment runs deep.

“It’s a faith thing – part of being a Catholic – and it’s a professional thing as well,” Dr Purcell said.

“And also, I suppose, being a woman and a mother, that you also have a heart for all people in difficult circumstances but you also know the value of motherhood and family life.

“So it’s all those things together.”

Queensland Parliament’s passing of pro-abortion legislation in December 2018 has not affected Dr Purcell’s passion for defending the right to life.

“At the moment we’ll be focusing in view of the (Queensland) election (in October) and on euthanasia,” she said.

“They’re two of our objectives, things we have to work towards.

“On abortion, you hope that you can reverse some of the worst aspects of the (Queensland) law but it’s very hard to reverse these things once they’re in.

“The other thing is to hopefully find new leaders to take on the issues as well …”

Dr Purcell’s been a leading figure in the pro-life movement in Queensland for much of the past 45 years, becoming Toowoomba branch president a couple of years after graduating from university.

She had a nine-year stint as state president from about 1995 and returned to the role a couple of years ago.

Right from her days as a medical student it was respect for human life that drove her.

That was why she chose a career in medicine, and then at university it was a hot topic that caught her attention outside her studies.

“It was a very controversial issue at the time on campus, we frequently had debates about it and there was a lot of money spent by the university clubs and societies promoting (abortion),” she said.

“And then you just stay involved, and I guess you just become committed to it in the end and feel it’s something you’ve got to give yourself in whatever capacity as far as you can go, to keep being a voice there.”

Dr Purcell said Cherish Life was fortunate to still have “a loyal membership, and that’s 50 years of donations that’s kept the organisation”.

“We’ve never had any government money, because that prejudices what you can say. And we haven’t sought it either,” she said.

“We do have our membership growing, but there’s a lot of people who are loosely associated with us who would come to events like our marches and get involved around election times and helping out in that way but don’t necessarily ever want to be a formal member …

“We’ve certainly seen bigger responses to our rallies when we have them, from when they first started, and that’s certainly a good sign but my concern is does it keep pace with the push towards these things, into making abortion cemented in the law and within the health industry.

“It’s much harder for people who are opposed to it, or even ambivalent, to work there when it’s become inculturated.

“And similarly with euthanasia I can see that happening to the same point as well, and we’re looking at the current (State) Government that will present a bill some time (next year) if they get re-elected.

“So that presents another problem … to have that embedded and inculturated in Queensland, in our health industry mentality or philosophy that it’s acceptable to deal with illness and terminal illness and chronic illness by offering people a way to kill themselves.”

Dr Purcell is truthful about what keeps her going as a leading pro-lifer.

“Sometimes it’s the lack of other people behind you (to take up leadership), to be honest,” she said.

“It’s just that you believe it’s something that you need to do, but sooner or later you have to hang up the towel and hope somebody’s there to take your place.”

Cherish Life will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a dinner on October 2, with the anticipation that COVID restrictions will have lifted.

The Brisbane March for Life will then be held the following day.

Written by: Peter Bugden
Catholic Church Insurance

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