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Overjoyed Abbott pleads case for adoption

After initially denying that the revelation of the identity of his adopted son was a counterpoint to abortion, Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott told ABC Radio last night: "I am disappointed there are so few babies adopted these days because there are plenty of parents [willing to adopt them]."

The comment came at the end of a day of sustained media attention following Abbott's decision to go public with the recently-discovered details of his personal life. He acknowledged the identity of his son, whom he had not met for 27 years after he was adopted out when Mr Abbott was 19 - in an interview with The Bulletin magazine.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Abbott said his anti-abortion views are less "emphatic" than sometimes perceived and called for his son, Daniel O'Connor, not to be used as a political football.

"Look, I think I've made it pretty clear that I said what I was going to say about [abortion] late last year," Mr Abbott said earlier in the day. "If others want to draw lessons ... then let them do it, but I'm certainly not doing it. I can't help what other people say, but I certainly don't think that Daniel ought to become a political football."

The minister's former secondary school sweetheart, Kathy Donnelly, gave birth to Daniel on July 26, 1977, when Mr Abbott was in the second year of a law/economics degree at the University of Sydney. Their baby was adopted after five days and the couple split. Neither saw the boy until Mr O'Connor contacted Ms Donnelly in Western Australia on Christmas Eve last year.

Mr O'Connor, an ABC TV sound engineer who often fitted microphones to his father in preparation for press conferences, is holidaying in England and told ABC Radio that he was concerned for the anonymity of his adoptive parents.

In an extraordinarily frank interview on The 7.30 Report last night, Mr Abbott admitted to having a lot less "emotional freight" about his son than Ms Donnelly and "probably less than a different kind of bloke would have felt", and said he mostly recalled bewilderment when he held his newborn son years ago.

"I suspect you develop a bit of a hard shell, particularly in my business, but Daniel has been a part of me and my sense of self," he said.

Mr Abbott had denied any link between his going public about his son and the renewed abortion debate. "As a politician I live in a goldfish bowl, so almost anything that happens is rightly or wrongly treated as newsworthy," he said.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, would not be drawn into commenting on whether he had discussed the subject with Mr Abbott but said it was a heart-warming story. "I think it's a wonderful story, speaking personally, but I'm speaking as John Howard, a friend of Tony Abbott's, and as somebody who respects in him the qualities of a very decent human being," he said in Wellington.

Overjoyed Abbott pleads case for adoption (Sydney Morning Herald 22/2/05)

Tony Abbott MHR
Department of Community Services NSW: Adoption
Adoption - helping parents decide (Catholic Weekly 24/2/02) - Adoption Information and Services
Happy Families Downunder

Abbott backs new anti-abortion lobby (CathNews 1/2/05)
Meeting of Bishops' taskforce on pastoral responses to abortion (CathNews 24/12/04)
Bishops propose abortion alternatives (CathNews 26/11/04)
Persecution today for 'mad monk' Abbott (CathNews 10/12/04)
Melbourne Archbishop welcomes abortion debate (CathNews 10/11/04)
Liberals say Abbott will pay for commitment to faith before politics (CathNews 8/11/04)

Discovering Daniel (The Bulletin 16/2/05)
Abbott reunited with son (ABC TV 7:30 Report)
Melinda Tankard-Reist: The right to choose adoption (The Australian 22/2/05)
Years after, a knock at the door (Sydney Morning Herald 22/2/05)
Abbott story could motivate reunions (The Age 21/2/05)
Adoption in the spotlight after Tony Abbott reunites with son (ABC Radio The World Today 21/2/05)
Editorial: Redemption in a long-shot reunion (Sydney Morning Herald 22/2/05)
An indiscretion freely confessed (Daily Telegraph 22/2/05)Australian reunnion with a twist (BBC 21/2/05)
Minister and adopted son worked side-by-side (IOL South Africa 21/2/05)

22 Feb 2005