Abortion study points to demand for "new" debate

Upon releasing Phase Two of their report, the authors of the most comprehensive study ever into Australian attitudes to abortion have called for the Federal Parliament to engage with the "modern debate" and help build on newly identified common ground.

Before last week's launch of Phase Two of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute study - the results of a series of focus groups - authors Dr John Fleming and Selena Ewing from say a new debate based on common ground and a path forward is rapidly replacing the pro-life versus pro-choice debate.

"Phase One of our research found that the overwhelming majority of Australians believe the number of abortions is too high, and 87% want that number reduced without restricting legal access to the procedure," said Ms Ewing.

"Phase Two of our research examined exactly how the number of abortions could be reduced. Australians were clear that we first need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through education/information and helping women manage risk, and secondly we need to offer pregnant women more options so that abortion becomes the option of last resort.

"Popular options for pregnant women included changes to policies on taxation, health and welfare; as well as options such as counselling, better information and family/community support," said Ms Ewing.

Dr Fleming said there was considerable discussion about counselling including:

That counselling should be available on the alternatives to abortion as well as on the risks associated with the abortion procedure;
That there was strong support for further public funding for counselling services;
That Australians believe health professions should be more active in providing information, advice and support for pregnant women;
That counselling should be provided on an optional basis.

"There is considerable common ground amongst Australian in their respect for motherhood and their desire to move forward with the debate on abortion. We believe this data, the second phase in a four phase project, provides the evidence and opportunity for change," said Dr Fleming.

The next two stages of the research will be undertaken in 2005-2006 and the full details published at the end of the project.

The Southern Cross Bioethics Institute is an independent, non-sectarian, autonomous institution established in 1987 in Adelaide with help from the Catholic Church's Southern Cross Care Inc. Last week, Australian Democrats leader Senator Lyn Allison used this link with the Church to question the objectivity of the survey.

Give Women Choice: Australia Speaks on Abortion (Southern Cross Bioethics Institute 21/6/05)
Greater Detail Needed to Validate Abortion Survey (Australian Democrats 21/6/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Southern Cross Bioethics Institute | Give Women Choice: Australia Speaks On Abortion (Executive Summary - PDF) | Order Copy

Survey reveals Australians want fewer abortions (CathNews 3/5/05)

27 Jun 2005