Abortion

Right To Life NSW believes that there is always a life-affirming choice for any woman faced with a crisis pregnancy that respects both the right to life of her unborn child and is conducive to her own flourishing as a woman.

Abortion may seem like the best choice, or even the only choice, but there is always a better way.

A woman considering having an abortion is entitled to all the facts – about the nature of the unborn child she is carrying; about the known adverse impacts of abortion on women’s physical health – including an increased risk of death – and mental wellbeing; and about the alternatives to abortion, including help to raise the child, fostering and adoption.

How many abortions take place each year in NSW?

There are no comprehensive statistics kept in New South Wales on the number of abortions performed.

In the financial year July 2018-June 2019 there were 17,528 claims from New South Wales and the ACT made under Medicare item 35643 –  Evacuation of the contents of the gravid uterus by curettage or suction curettage, that is a first trimester surgical abortion.

In the same financial year there were 2,906 claims under the PBS for the drugs used for a medical abortion.

So there were over 20,000 abortions in New South Wales in that year.

However, this does not include surgical abortions performed on public patients in public hospitals, second and third trimester abortions those performed in private clinics for which Medicare is not claimed.

In Western Australia, where comprehensive abortion statistics are kept, the percentage of pregnancies ending in abortion has decreased from a high of 26% in 2001 to 18% in 2018.

When does life begin? – A biological questions

The question of when the life of an individual human being begins is a biological question. By definition, biology is the study of life.

Whatever else we may be, each of us is an individual organism of the species Home sapiens.

The Biology Dictionary explains:

Sexual reproduction is the process in which new organisms are created, by combining the genetic information from two individuals of different sexes. The genetic information is carried on chromosomes within the nucleus of specialized sex cells called gametes. In males, these gametes are called sperm and in females the gametes are called eggs. During sexual reproduction the two gametes join together in a fusion process known as fertilization, to create a zygote, which is the precursor to an embryo offspring, taking half of its DNA from each of its parents. In humans, a zygote contains 46 chromosomes: 23 from its mother and 23 from its father. The combination of these chromosomes produces an offspring that is similar to both its mother and father but is not identical to either.[1]

There are some variations from this norm: monozygotic siblings (identical twins etc.) begin life from a single zygote that subsequently splits so that the resulting embryos contain identical DNA; some monozygotic twins may share parts of their bodies – conjoined twins; some individuals have a variant number of chromosomes, the most common example is those with Down Syndrome who have 3 copies, instead of 2, of chromosome 21; some human embryos result from artificial manipulation of an ova through cloning or parthenogenesis  although these processes have so far only led to human embryos surviving a few days.

Notwithstanding these variations the answer to the biological question is clear.

The science of fetology has dramatically improved our understanding of unborn human life.  It is no longer possible in the age of 4-D ultrasound and in utero fetal surgery to hold that the fetus is just a bunch of cells or anything other than “one of us”, that is a human being. 

These are just some facts about the unborn child revealed by recent scientific developments:

  • Cardiac motion can be visualized using ultrasonography from as early as 26–32 days after conception, and certain aspects of embryonic heart function have been studied using Doppler ultrasonography from 6 weeks of gestation.”[2] At 6 weeks the mean heart rate is 117 beats per minute.  At 10 weeks the mean heart rate is 171 beats per minute.[3]
  • A motor response can first be seen as a whole body movement away from a stimulus and observed on ultrasound from as early as 7.5 weeks’ gestational age.  The area around the mouth is the first part of the body to respond to touch at approximately 8 weeks, but by 14 weeks most of the body is responsive to touch.[4]
  • By 15 weeks gestation the human fetus has fully developed and functioning taste buds.[5]
  •  “Starting from the 14th week of gestation twin foetuses plan and execute movements specifically aimed at the co-twin.  These findings force us to predate the emergence of social behaviour: when the context enables it, as in the case of twin foetuses, other-directed actions are not only possible but predominant over self-directed”.[6]

[1] https://biologydictionary.net/sexual-reproduction/

[2] A. Wloch et al. “Atrial dominance in the human embryonic heart: a study of cardiac function at 6–10 weeks of gestation”, Ultrasound in obstetrics & gynecology, 2015; 46: 553–557, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/uog.14749/pdf

[3] A. Wloch et al., “Doppler study of the embryonic heart in normal pregnant women”, Journal of maternal-fetal and neonatal medicine, 2007, 20:533-9, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14767050701434747?journalCode=ijmf20

[4] LB Myers et al. “Fetal endoscopic surgery: indications and anaesthetic management”, Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology, 2004, 18:231-258, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521689604000023?via%3Dihub

[5] M. Witt and K. Reutter, “Embryonic and early fetal development of human taste buds: a transmission electron microscopical study”, The Anatomical Record, 1996, 246:507-23, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1097-0185(199612)246:4%3C507::AID-AR10%3E3.0.CO;2-S/epdf

[6] U. Castiello et al., “Wired to Be Social: The Ontogeny of Human Interaction”, PLoS One,  2010; 5, Published online, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013199

When does the right to life begin? – A question of justice

The principle of justice towards others is expressed in various ways in different cultures but there is a shared view perhaps summed up best by the Chinese philosopher Confucius:

Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself

Do we want others to steal from us? No. So don’t steal.

Do we want to be killed by someone else because it would be convenient for them or just because they are more powerful? No. So don’t kill.

There is no reason why this basic principle does not apply to a human being from the very beginning of his or her life at fertilisation. After all, if any of us had been killed at any point from fertilisation onwards we would no longer exist.

The only real competitors to this view are:

  • A view of human personhood that, based on selective criteria, denies that all biological human beings are human persons, and asserts that a human being that is judged not to be a human person can be treated accordingly –enslaved, experimented upon, killed. This selective denial of human personhood has included black Americans (Dred Scott was determined to be a piece of property not a person by the US Supreme Court in Dred Scott v Sanford (1857)); Jews (Hitler considered a Jew to be a bacillus: Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus.  Don’t think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis.  This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst.); Peter Singer considers that a human infant or a human being with a profound intellectual disability is not a human person and that therefore not just abortion but infanticide and eugenic euthanasia are justified to increase our own happiness. As he says, an intellectually disabled human being is worth less than a healthy pig. Under this ethic each of us is in peril depending on who is deciding the criteria on which human personhood is to be acknowledged.
  • The view that the right to life begins at the precise moment of birth and not a moment before; and that a woman who is pregnant has an unfettered right to kill her unborn child at any time before birth and without needing to give a reason, has no coherent foundation. It can’t be based on the actual nature of the child – which does not differ between, say, a child in the womb at 24 weeks of pregnancy and a prematurely born child of the same gestational age. It can’t be based on the absolute dependency of the child because this would also apply to a newborn or an infant. It can’t even be based on the right to control her own body as those asserting the right insist on a right to kill the unborn child even after viability – the stage at which a child can survive outside the womb – rather than simply deliver the child live born; not to mention the obvious biological fact that the unborn child has his or her own body. Indeed this view seems to have been developed to justice an unfettered right to abortion rather than be based on any broader principle, except that of “might makes right”: I am more powerful than you; you are in my way; I will dispose of you.

Is this the world we want to live in? This is not really an alternate ethics just a decision to ignore ethics.

Adverse impacts of abortion on women

Every abortion carries a serious risk to the woman’s physical and mental health.

An analysis of the medical literature shows that:

·        Abortion increases maternal mortality

Abortion has been found in population wide studies in Finland, California and Denmark to be associated with an increased risk of mortality, in particular a dramatically increased risk of suicide – up to 6.6 times higher than that of women who had given birth in the prior year.[1]

Registry based studies such as the two Danish studies and the early studies from Finland and California are important in gaining an accurate picture of comparative maternal mortality following induced abortion and childbirth.

The claim that abortion is safer for women than childbirth is usually based on limited data with many deaths following abortions not identified as such.  This claim cannot be sustained in the light of the registry studies which consistently demonstrate that induced abortion, and even more so late induced abortions or repeat abortions, significantly increase the risk of maternal death.

  • Abortion puts future fertility at risk

Abortion has been shown to increase the risk of infection or damage to the fallopian tubes and reduce the chances of successfully conceiving in the future.[2]

Abortion has been identified as a risk factor for preterm delivery in subsequent pregnancies. Multiple terminations of pregnancy increase the risk even further.[3]

Abortion increases the risk of placenta praevia and in a subsequent pregnancy and the risk of ectopic pregnancy. [4]

Abortion has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage in subsequent pregnancies.[5]

  • Abortion adversely impacts women’s mental health

Women who had an abortion before age 25 had 1.49-1.72 times the risk of experiencing mental health problems than women who had not got pregnant or who had become pregnant and not had an abortion.  Those having an abortion had elevated rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviours and substance use disorders.[6]

Exposure to abortion is associated by age 30 with a 1.3 relative risk of mental health problems while carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term was not a risk factor for mental health problems. [7]

Over 85% of women who had an abortion reported at least one negative reaction to the abortion (sorrow, sadness, guilt, grief/loss, regret, disappointment) with 34.6% of women who had an abortion reporting five or six of these negative reactions.  For those women with moderate negative reactions (1-3) to abortion this was associated with a 1.43 relative risk of subsequent mental health problems compared to women who did not have an abortion.  For those with stronger negative reactions (4-6) the relative risk of subsequent mental health problems was 1.64-1.81. For women under 30 years old abortion is responsible for approximately 5% of all mental health problems.[8]

Unlike other pregnancy outcomes, abortion is consistently associated with a moderate increase in risk (45%) of mental health disorders during late adolescence and early adulthood. “The association of abortion with subsequent mental distress is not merely contingent but is indeed causal”.[9]


[1] See:

 M.  Gissler et.  al., “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000”, European Journal of Public Health, 2005, 15:459-63,  https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/15/5/459/526248

M.  Gissler et.  al., “Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000”, European Journal of Public Health, 2005, 15:459-63,  https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/15/5/459/526248

E Karalis et al., “Decreasing mortality during pregnancy and for a year after while mortality after termination of pregnancy remains high: a population-based register study of pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland 2001–2012”, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1471-0528.14484/abstract

DC Reardon et.  al., “Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women”, Southern Medical Journal, 2002, 95:834-41, https://sma.org/southern-medical-journal/article/deaths-associated-with-pregnancy-outcome-a-record-linkage-study-of-low-income-women/

DC Reardon & PK Coleman, “Short and long term mortality rates associated with first pregnancy outcome: Population register based study for Denmark 1980–2004”, Medical Science Monitor, 2012, 18: PH71-76, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560645/

PK Coleman, DC Reardon and BC Calhoun, “Reproductive history patterns and long-term mortality rates: a Danish, population-based record linkage study”, European Journal of Public Health, Volume 23, Issue 4, 1 August 2013, Pages 569–574, https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/23/4/569/427991

[2] Verhoeve HR, “History of induced abortion and the risk of tubal pathology”, Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2008) 16:304-307, https://www.rbmojournal.com/article/S1472-6483(10)60589-5/pdf

[3] Behrman RE and Butler AS (editors), Institute of Medicine of the Academies, Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes Preterm Birth Causes, Consequences, and Prevention (2007) National Academies Press, p. 625, https://www.nap.edu/read/11622/chapter/25

[4] Lowit A. “Obstetric performance following an induced abortion”, Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2010) 24:667-682, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521693410000301

[5] Sun Y et al. “Induced abortion and risk of subsequent miscarriage”, International Journal of Epidemiology(2003); 32:449-454, https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/32/3/449/637113

[6] D Fergusson, L Horwood and E Ridder, “Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health”, Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 2006; 47(1): 16-24, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01538.x

[7] D Fergusson.  L Horwood and J Boden, “Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study”, British Journal of Psychiatry 2008; 193: 444–51, http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/bjprcpsych/193/6/444.full.pdf

[8] D Fergusson.  L Horwood and J Boden, “Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health”, British Journal of Psychiatry 2009; 195: 420–26, http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/bjprcpsych/195/5/420.full.pdf

[9] DP Sullins, “Abortion, substance abuse and mental health in early adulthood: Thirteen-year longitudinal evidence from the United States”, SAGE Open Medicine 2016: 4:1–11, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066584/pdf/10.1177_2050312116665997.pdf

Is abortion ever necessary to save a mother’s life?

Cancer treatment to preserve a mother’s life even if that treatment may pose a risk to the health, or even the life, of her unborn child is not abortion.

Nor is the early induction of labour for conditions such as severe eclampsia provided (i) there is no direct assault on the unborn child intended to kill it and (ii) on delivery the child is given the same treatment, including resuscitation, as would be given to any child delivered at the same gestational age.

Neither of these scenarios is accurately defined as abortion, which always includes an intention to end the life of the unborn child, or at least recklessness about causing its death.

The Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare signed by over 100 medical professionals, including 245 obstetricians and gynaecologists expresses this approach succinctly:

As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.

We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.

We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.[1]

This view was also expressed on behalf of five US medical professional organizations representing over 30,000 physicians who practice according to the Hippocratic Oath

In cases where the mother’s life actually is in danger in the latter half of pregnancy, there is not time for an abortion, because an abortion typically is a two to three-day process. Instead, immediate delivery is needed in these situations, and can be done in a medically appropriate way (labor induction or C-section) by the woman’s own physician. We can, and do, save the life of the mother through delivery of an intact infant in a hospital where both the mother and her newborn can receive the care that they need. There is no medical reason to intentionally kill that fetal human being through an inhumane abortion procedure, e.g. dismembering a living human being capable of feeling pain, or saline induction which burns off the skin, or feticide with subsequent induction.[2]


[1] https://www.dublindeclaration.com/

[2] “It Is Never Necessary to Intentionally Kill a Fetal Human Being to Save a Woman’s Life”, Public Discourse, 17 Feb 2019, https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/02/49619/

Is sex selection abortion happening in NSW?

There is solid evidence that sex selection abortion is happening throughout Australia, including in New South Wales. 

On 30 May 2015 SBS journalist Pallavi Jain presented a SBS radio investigation into skewed birth ratios evident in Australian Bureau of Statistics date for babies born to Indian and Chinese parents between 2003 and 2013.[1]

Four demographers were consulted by SBS:  Dr. Christophe Guilmoto, Demographer at the French Research Institute for Development; Dr. Nick Parr, Macquarie University’s Associate Professor in Demography; Dr. Gour Dasvarma, Flinders University’s Associate Professor in Population Studies; and Dr. Peter McDonald, Professor of Demography, Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia-Pacific, ANU.

These demographers concurred that the figures show the number of boys born compared to girls is unnaturally high for some overseas born parents in Australia: 109.5 boys for every 100 girls for Chinese-born Australians and 108.2 boys for every 100 girls for Indian-born Australians compared to the ratio for all Australian births of 105.7 males for every 100 females.

Dr. Christophe Guilmoto stated that “Australia registered 1,395 missing female births during 2003-2013 among Chinese and Indian communities in Australia”.[2]

Dr Nick Parr said that “There has to be some form of pre-natal sex selection taking place. In my opinion the most plausible explanation is that there is sex-selective abortion occurring.”

Dr Christophe Guilmoto agreed that sex-selective abortions seem to be occurring in Australia. “I think there is no other explanation. Once we have run statistical test on this data and they show that the gap between the sex ratio at birth among these two communities and the rest of the population is not random, then we know there is something. There are very few ways to influence the sex of your child so the most common is to resort to sex selective abortion”.[3]

The customised table of births provided by ABS to SBS for this investigation includes a breakdown by States. This data shows that in New South Wales just for children born to parents both of whom were born in China there is a skewed birth ration of 108.3 boys for every 100 girls and consequently 279 girls missing in New South Wales in that community alone from 2003 to 2013, an average of more than 25 missing girls each year.[4]


[1] https://www.sbs.com.au/radio/fragment/new-abs-data-suggests-gender-selection-happening-australia

[2] https://www.sbs.com.au/radio/storystream/news-its-girl-still-unwelcome-some-cultures-australia

[3] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/could-gender-selective-abortions-be-happening-in-australia

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/radio/fragment/new-abs-data-suggests-gender-selection-happening-australia

Does abortion ever result in a live born child? What happens to these children?

The stage of pregnancy at which the unborn child has a real chance of surviving outside the womb, and of going on to live a flourishing life is becoming earlier and earlier in pregnancy thanks to significant developments in medical science.

In 2014 Lyla Stensrud was resuscitated after delivery at 21 weeks’ 4 days’ gestation and weighing just 410 g. She is the most premature survivor documented to date.[1]

In 2018 , her mother Courtney and her truck driver dad Paul described Lyla as a happy, healthy four-year-old. “’She’s a typical toddler who loves climbing on her brother, playing one-on-one, by herself or in a group and she interacts well with the other kids”. Apart from a moderate speech delay Lyla has no other known disability or health issues.[2]

A 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that with active treatment babies born prematurely at 22 weeks have close to a one in four chance of survival, mostly without any severe impairment. This increases to a one in three chance of survival at 23 weeks; a nearly six out of ten chance at 24 weeks; a nearly three out of four chance at 25 weeks and over four out of five chance at 26 weeks.[3]

The Abortion Survivors Network has connected with 260 survivors of abortion or their friends or family. [4]

Melissa Ohden is one example of a person surviving an attempted abortion. Following an abortion performed in an Iowa hospital in 1977, Melissa was born alive but placed with other medical waste for disposal. She was rescued by a nurse who heard her faint cries and took her to neonatal intensive care.[5] She is now, not surprisingly, a prolife advocate.

In Oldenburg, Germany in 1997 a boy called Tim was born alive following an abortion at 25 weeks performed because he had been prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Despite being given no treatment for the first nine hours after his delivery he eventually survived. He lived until he was 21 years old and died in 2018 due to problems with his lungs caused by his premature birth and the failure to give him immediate care after delivery. His foster mother Simone Guido described him as a unique, joyful son.[6]

Under Victoria’s “reformed” abortion law, from 2009 to 2017 there have been 3103 abortions performed at 20 weeks or later.

In more than 10% of cases late term abortion resulted in the delivery of a live born baby. In Victoria from 2009 to 2017 some 332 babies were born alive after a late term abortion and simply left to die.[7] 


[1] KA Ahmad, “Two-Year Neurodevelopmental Outcome of an Infant Born at 21 Weeks’ 4 Days’ Gestation’, Pediatrics,  Nov 2017, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/10/31/peds.2017-0103

[2] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6497947/Smallest-preemie-baby-survivor-Lyla-Stensrud-born-21-weeks-one-pound-look-now.html

[3] M.A. Rysavy et al., “Between-Hospital Variation in Treatment and Outcomes in Extremely Preterm Infants”, NEJM: New England Journal of Medicine, 2015;372:1801-11, Table 2, p. 1807, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d525/b327ed2f9019fd9ac6b56664413119917499.pdf

[4] https://theabortionsurvivors.com/

[5] https://www.bbc.com/news/health-44357373

[6] https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/niedersachsen/oldenburg_ostfriesland/Oldenburger-Baby-stirbt-mit-21-Jahren,tim144.html

[7] Data derived from Victoria’s Mothers, Babies and Children, 2009-2017,  an annual report produced by the Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity, https://www.bettersafercare.vic.gov.au/about-us/about-scv/councils/ccopmm/reports#goto-victorias-mothers,-babies-and-children-reports