Interview with Rachel Carling-Jenkins
Dr. Rachel Carling-Jenkins, MP, is the Western Metropolitan member responsible for introducing the Infant Viability bill into the Victorian parliament late last year. The pro-life movement is very excited about this bill, which is the first real attempt to roll back Victoria’s extremely liberal abortion laws. (You can read a post by Melbourne Helpers member, Richard Grant, here.) Rachel recently spoke at my parish in Ringwood, and kindly agreed to do this interview for LUTD.
Rachel, how knowledgeable have you found the general public in Victoria to be, regarding the state’s current abortion law? Do most people realise that babies are being legally aborted up to full term?
The response of the general public to the current abortion laws has been one of disbelief. Very few people know that babies can be aborted up to the time of their birth here in Victoria. Even in churches there has been a lack of awareness.
When I tell people about this, many are horrified. This is a “grey area” even for people who would generally see themselves as pro-abortion.
Why did you decide to present a 20-week bill? Do you think this sends a message that babies at under 20 weeks gestation are less important?
All preborn babies are important and I am 100% pro-life. This bill is designed to achieve the best we can at this current time. If we introduced a bill to ban all abortions it would have absolutely no chance of succeeding. Better to succeed in part than to fail completely. Through continued education and advocacy, I hope we can make further improvements to the law in the near future.
Have you heard of many cases of viable babies being born alive in Victoria after failed abortions?
It is my understanding that at least 40 babies are born alive after failed abortions, each year here in Victoria. This represents around 10% of the number of preborn babies who lose their lives each year as a result of late term abortions.
I should also point out that when the intent has been to abort a child, a baby born alive as a result of a failed abortion, is not revived. They have no protection outside the womb, and are, left to die.
Many later-term abortions are performed on the grounds of foetal abnormalities: what assistance would you like to see given to parents to encourage them to choose life after an unexpected foetal diagnosis?
About half of late-term abortions are performed on the grounds of abnormality. This means that half are performed on perfectly healthy babies. The reason for their death sentence is “psychosocial” reasons. This represents, to me, the need for women to be given more holistic care in the later stages of their pregnancy.
As to abortions on the basis of abnormality- I believe that every child has a right to life, even if that life is short. I believe in the practice of hospice in the womb, where babies who have a disability or an illness which is incompatible with life, are treated palliatively from gestation through to birth, then continuing to the short life they have. This is a compassionate approach, embraced by parents who, instead of ending the life of their child through abortion, are given the opportunity to meet their little one, name them, celebrate and comfort them.
This allows parents the time and the right to grieve for the life of their little one without the guilt associated with abortion.
How has the response been to the 20-week movement? Where have you found the most support? The least support?
The 20 week movement has received overwhelming support. The largest support base has come from a very grass-roots, individual level with people taking petitions in support of the bill to their workplaces, their small groups, their community groups, and their churches. I’ve even found out that petitions were signed one night in a pub!
There are also churches who have championed this cause, and have invited me to speak and/or placed petitions in their foyers.
Then there has been the significant work of prolife organisations who have rallied around this movement – and promoted it through their networks.
The response has been fantastic – with over 1,000 signatures collected to date.
The least amount of support has come from within parliament – the Greens and the Sex Party opposed the first reading of my bill, which means that they attempted to block the bill from being brought up for debate. This attempt failed, but I am aware that they are working hard against the bill.
As a legislator, what would you say are the biggest hurdles to enacting pro-life laws in Victoria? In Australia?
The biggest hurdle we face is apathy within our churches and a general unwillingness within our congregations, to engage in politics. This apathy and unwillingness leads to less and less people with pro-life values being elected.
Many politicians, including those elected with a pro-life viewpoint, care more about their future careers than they do about enacting pro-life legislation. If any politician tells you that they can’t bring forward a pro-life bill – beware! By your fruits you will know them!!
What would you say to people who think that politicians should be concentrating on employment, infrastructure and the economy and staying away from controversial issues like abortion law?
If politicians do not deal with controversial issues, who will? Abortions are legal up until birth here in Victoria because of a decision made by politicians in 2008. This legislation must now be challenged by politicians. Issues around employment, infrastructure and the economy are important – and the DLP works hard to infuse arguments of human dignity and the common good whenever these issues are raised in parliament.
Martin Luther King Jnr once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter”. Politicians have been given a platform from which they do not have to remain silent. I, for one, feel that it is a privilege to have such a platform – and while I am in parliament, I will not remain silent about things that matter (no matter how uncomfortable this may make people feel).
For more information about the Infant Viability bill, visit the 20 Week Movement website
and find out how you can help the campaign here!