How do we judge what someone might do in the future? Usually it’s a combination of what we know they’ve done in the past, our judgement of their character and how much we trust assurances about what they say they’ll do.
I’ve wondered about this recently because not long ago Tony Abbott told women’s website Mamamia that his views on abortion are less than black-and-white.
This claim implied he has been misunderstood on the issue. Some concluded from this that women have nothing to fear from Abbott if he becomes PM.
None of this makes sense to me. Here’s the reason why.
I’m an abortion rights activist and have been up against Tony Abbott in a number of abortion rights campaigns.
I clearly remember the speech Abbott gave to the Adelaide University Democratic Club in 2004 that effectively put a woman’s right (or lack thereof ) to choose abortion back on the political agenda.
In it he described the “practice of abortion” as “an objectively grave matter [that] has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience,” and wondered whether it was “really so hard to create a culture where people understand that actions have consequences and take their responsibilities seriously?” (Given he was speaking of abortion, we can assume the “people” in question here are the female sort).
The speech remains on his website to this day titled “Rate of Abortion Highlights Our Moral Failings”.
During the RU486 debate in federal parliament, in which Abbott fought tooth and nail to hold on to his ministerial veto over a drug that is on the World Health Organisation’s list of “essential medicines,” Abbott shouted:
“Mr Speaker, we have a bizarre double standard in this country where someone who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder, but a woman aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice.”
I was in the chamber when the Prime Minister John Howard, Tony Abbott and other opponents of reproductive rights became aware they would lose the conscience vote on the issue.
They began using their speeches to alert their supporters in the gallery the Howard government’s intention to maintain the shame and stigma surrounding abortion, and to impede women’s capacity to make informed decisions for themselves.
Just two weeks after RU486 was won, the government announced a $51 million suite of aptly named Pregnancy Support Measures designed to reduce the nation’s abortion rate.
These – according to the joint press release issued by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health Tony Abbott – included a Medicare item number for pregnancy support counselling by GPs (since axed for lack of use) and a hotline providing counselling that was described as “non-directive” but for which Church agencies could tender, despite the fact that they do not provide accurate information about abortion and will not direct women to safe services, even if a woman asks.
To his credit, the alternative Prime Minister has never squibbed the question of the motivation for his anti-choice views and actions.
They come from his adherence to a highly orthodox version of Catholicism. As he said in his Adelaide Club speech and at a number of different points since, Abbott believes that “Christians in politics” do not have to “sell out their principles in order to survive”.