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The voice of the child


A few weeks ago I attended a South Australian Law Reform Institute roundtable consultation session on the South Australian abortion laws.

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I was anxious before attending this as for me one of the most difficult things to discuss with anyone is the topic of abortion.

It invokes the most intense feelings because it strikes at the core of what people fight most for; their rights and their freedom.

The dilemma for me is the experience of negotiating the paradox of having deep compassion for all involved, when the rights and freedom of the mother and the unborn child need to be considered.

There is the mother and perhaps the father who are placed in the situation of needing to make the most difficult of decisions, and then there’s the unborn child, who has no say or choice in the decision about its life, its viability or its value.

I worked in the area of child protection for many years, with the focus of the work being that of finding the voice of the child, protecting the child from neglect and abuse, along with creating child-safe initiatives, and it goes against every value and ethic in child protection to concede that the deliberate ending of a pregnancy becomes the solution to a problem.

I feel anxious writing this, as the language used to provide the context for this discussion can confuse one who believes in the rights and equality for all.

For example the notion that this is a feminist debate, when I see myself as a feminist, is disconcerting. I do not want to be considered as anti-feminist because I believe an unborn child is of equal value to one who has been safely delivered from the womb.

Another example is the notion of being pro-choice. I believe everybody has a right to choose, unless that choice is made at the detriment of someone else. But if I don’t condone abortion, the pretext of this type of dialogue means I am anti free choice, and I do not believe I am.

The notion of the rights of the woman to be able to make decisions regarding her own body, also makes it difficult to have an open dialogue about one’s thoughts on abortion. Of course I believe a woman has a right to decide on what happens to her body, but not when it results in the destruction of the unborn child’s body within.

This rhetoric leaves me in the position that if I disagree with abortion, then I am anti-feminist, anti-choice and controlling of women’s rights, when my intent has no relationship to this.

I just don’t think abortion should be considered as a solution to a problem.

This is not a matter of judgement of a person for making this choice. It’s a matter of trying to provide a voice for a child who is given no legitimate status.

The new abortion legislation currently being consulted on is challenging in that one does want the safest and best medical care for women in these circumstances, but how can we consult on that when this safe practice results in the destruction of someone else?

I do not want to offend or hurt anyone.

My compassion for all is real, but I am left with no choice, if representing the voice of the child is at the centre of all I do.

Pauline Connelly is Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.


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