By Dermot Cottuli
A couple of years back I wrote this article in response to a lot of online debate that was happening around the extending of our State Abortion Laws. I hope it’s helpful.

At the moment in Tassie the issue of Abortion is back on the table with a bill currently before Parliament that is seeking to legalise abortion up to birth with the approval of two doctors; their decision being based on the mothers future emotional and physical well-being. The bill also wants to ban any protests within 150 metres of abortion clinics and also impose sanctions against any doctor who is pro-life who doesn’t refer their patients on to a pro-choice proponent when approached by a woman seeking an abortion. It’s a very contentious piece of legislation and has stirred up the angst of many Tasmanians.

For me though the legislation is simply the end result of a fundamentally flawed logic used by many when approaching this issue. We could very simply resolve the argument if the central question of the debate was answered and that is, “When is a baby a baby?”

I remember attending an information session put on by a Pro-life organisation when I was at Uni and having the meeting disrupted by a group of women chanting “Not the church, not the state, women must decide our fate.” Their sentiment on the surface sounded fair but women’s rights have never been the issue. Its simply been a smokescreen to hide the real issue from public scrutiny and that is the question I posed above, “When is a baby a baby?” I believe if we were to answer that question everything else would be answered as well.

A poster is being distributed at the moment trying to get people to attend a pro-choice rally in Hobart this Sunday. The poster shows two women holding up placards. One says “Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights. Fallopians 4:28” It’s a pointed dig at churches and the faith community who in the past have been vocal in their opposition of abortion. It’s also a great way to side track the debate. I’m a Christian and I believe strongly in the sanctity of life but my belief in the sanctity of life isn’t driven solely by my religious faith. It’s driven by my humanity, which is why I’m more than happy to sit down with anyone and discuss this issue and leave my personal faith at the door. Contrary to what some would have us believe, people of faith do possess a mind and are capable of reasoned debate grounded in sound logic.

The second woman’s placard states that “Illegal abortions killed 12,000 women each year.” The tragedy of this statement is that they killed 12,000 babies as well!! Babies who if given the chance, could have grown up to hold placards themselves one day, but will never have the opportunity.

I don’t believe for a moment that any pro-choicer would say that killing children is acceptable – all would be horrified at the thought. So where does that leave them in the abortion debate? They have to come up with a way of avoiding the question, so terms such as foetus and termination of pregnancy are used to try and distance themselves from the very uncomfortable question I’ve just posed. Emotive examples are used to try and shut down the discussion such as “What would you do if your 14 year old was raped and fell pregnant?” For anyone with a shred of compassion in their heart this would be a horrendous situation to face but once again, it doesn’t address the question at the heart of the abortion debate – “When is a baby a baby?” Situational ethics appeals to all of us especially when we’re the ones in pain, but society would fall apart if we tackled the issues of morality on the strength of our feelings alone.

In the past some tried to convince us that a baby was considered a baby when they could survive outside the womb. No-one uses this argument any longer as with the advances of modern science, we’re approaching the day when babies can be conceived and brought to full term outside the womb. What was once considered science fiction will one day be a reality.

Have you ever wondered why people will say they’re having a baby when they’ve been trying to fall pregnant and the pregnancy test comes back positive but when they’re having an abortion, it’s just a foetus? As I’ve said above, no-one that I know, pro-life or pro-choice would agree that killing a baby is acceptable under any circumstance so we have to somehow come up with a way to cover over any guilt we might feel at the thought of terminating a pregnancy. I understand why people do that – I just don’t agree with their decision.

Is the termination of a pregnancy the same as chopping off a mole or finger nail? The proponents of pro-choice would have us believe that that is all it is. If that’s the case then I don’t have a problem with it. What I choose to have removed from my body is my decision and not yours. But if the termination of a pregnancy is the killing of another human being then I can’t do anything other than stand against it.

So I’m asking every reader the same question – “When is a baby a baby?” If you can answer that question with considered and compassionate reasoning based on the truth and not emotional rhetoric, then you’ve solved the abortion debate for yourself and your course is clear.