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Abbott accused of pushing teenage sexual abstinence

Government sexual health advisers are fearing that Health Minister Tony Abbott's personal views are imposing a "moralistic agenda" on the coming national HIV/AIDS strategy, according to a report in The Age today.

The advisers are believed to be displeased that Health Department bureaucrats changed a draft strategy, written by an HIV/AIDS advisory committee, to include recommendations on teenage sexual abstinence.

One source said bureaucrats appeared to have changed the draft because they thought it was what Mr Abbott wanted. Another source said it was possible that the minister's office had intervened directly.

"One of the changes was that teenagers should not have sex before marriage, which is a very moralistic agenda. Most of the committee members have a view that if they are going to have sex they should be told how . . . to do it safely," one insider said.

"That (the change) was a little bit hard for some people to swallow. It's a very politicised bureaucracy. I'm not sure how much direct involvement the minister has had. I think the bureaucrats changed it because they thought it would please the minister."

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott said the strategy would "cover a range of measures including education and different types of behaviour, but it is really a matter for the committee to consider and prepare".

She did not comment on the suggestion that Mr Abbott had intervened personally.

Mr Abbott, a Catholic, is known for his conservative views on sex. Last year he sparked a debate on abortion that has drawn fire from some of his female parliamentary colleagues. He was also criticised for appointing the Jesuit Fr Michael Kelly to an HIV/AIDS subcommittee.

Meanwhile the Sun-Herald reported yesterday that Abbott's emotional reunion with his son Daniel O'Connor has led to a flood of calls to adoption agencies and centres from people inspired to find their birth parents or children.

"The staff here in the past week have noticed a real jump in the number of calls and all callers have been mentioning the Tony Abbott issue," NSW Department of Community Services director of adoptions and permanent care services Mary Griffin said.

'Moralistic' AIDS plan denounced (The Age 28/2/05)

NSW Department of Community Services | Snapshot on adoption in Australia

Jesuit defends Catholic voice on AIDS subcommittee (CathNews 5/3/04)
Overjoyed Abbott pleads case for adoption (CathNews 22/2/05)
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)

Abbott and abortion: lodging a religious bid (The Age 28/2/05)
Abbott case prompts leap in reunion queries (The Sun-Herald 27/2/05)

28 Feb 2005