Home | Contact Us | Articles - Charles Francis


Charles Francis

Last year, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) journal Sexual Health (2007, 4) published an editorial by Jo Wainer entitled “Abortion and the full humanity of women: nearly there”. It strongly supported the legalisation of all abortion. There were many aspects of the abortion debate to which Wainer had not adverted, so I sent CSIRO Publishing an article approximately the same length as Wainer’s three-page guest editorial. This was promptly rejected; but CSIRO Publishing indicated I could submit a shorter article complying with their guidelines for scientific manuscripts (which Wainer’s clearly had not), which they might publish provided it was peer-reviewed. I duly prepared an article complying with the CSIRO guidelines. It came as no great surprise when I received a letter on 29 May advising me that my manuscript was not suitable for publication. There was, of course, virtually no scientific evidence in Wainer’s article. She devoted much of her article to attacking Australia’s heritage of Irish Catholicism and “fundamentalist” religious opposition to abortion, which, she said, stemmed “from an unstated position that the role of women is to serve the family, in which the male is the head of the household and draws his authority from an all-male clergy, which derives its authority from the male Christian God”. One wonders what this analysis had to do with scientific facts in relation to women’s health, and what place it had in a journal purporting to be science- based. What follows is an edited version of my so far unpublished rejoinder to Ms Wainer’s article:


In her article, Jo Wainer categorises abortion as a “health service”. However, most abortions today have nothing to do with women’s health. Advances in medical science have ensured that pregnancy seldom constitutes a serious danger to a woman’s life or health. There is now abundant evidence that abortions performed for mental health reasons are likely to do women more harm than good. A number of studies have shown a significant association between induced abortion and subsequent drug and alcohol abuse. Other studies have also shown a much higher risk of suicide compared to women who carried to term. The recent suicide of artist Emma Beck in the United Kingdom is a stark example. One study in Finland reported a 650 per cent higher risk of suicide following an abortion. Prof. Philip Ney in his book, Deeply Damaged (1997) has indicated how abortion damages the relationship of women with their partners and with children they have or may have in the future. Such relationships form an important aspect of women’s humanity. In the US, the legalisation of abortion enabled husbands, partners and family to apply pressure to women to have abortions which were not their own choice. As a trial lawyer who acted for a number of women damaged by abortions, it has been my experience that some of these women did not themselves want the abortion but were coerced by other people. Legalising abortion will enable even greater pressure to be applied. Husbands, partners and family will be able to argue that there is nothing wrong with abortion because it has the full approval of the law. This coercion is now well recognised in the United States as a serious problem.

A survey conducted by the prestigious Elliot Institute found that 64 per cent of women who had abortions felt they were pressured by other people to have the abortion; and more than 80 per cent said that, had they been properly counselled, they would not have had the abortion. Eight states in the US have anticoercion bills pending; Idaho is the first state to have enacted its Bill. Wainer says that the Victorian Parliament will have the opportunity to consider access to safe and legal abortion, but abortion is never safe and will not be safe in the future. Even the late Dr Peter Bayliss — who was widely acclaimed as a very highly skilled abortionist — had his share of disasters, which included one death and a woman who, after her abortion, was left in a permanently unresponsive state. The medical risks of an abortion are now becoming increasingly well known and documented. In the US, a number of states have passed legislation which requires an abortionist to counsel patients on the medical risks and to provide a document setting out the risks. The required documentation under Texas law identifies 14 of the known medical risks. The best-established risk is psychiatric damage.

The Elliot Institute has estimated that more than 10 per cent of women suffer serious and prolonged psychiatric damage requiring treatment. This issue has been incisively explored by Australian psychologist Anne Lastman in her book Redeeming Grief (2007). Since 1996, Anne has treated more than 1,000 patients, mainly women, but some men also. Subsequent to an abortion, some women pass plainly identifiable foetal parts. One woman, for whom I acted, passed an entire leg followed by the other leg of her unborn child, the spinal column, the rib cage and chest and heart. Finally came a small, identifiable head with glassy eyes which appeared to be cold and staring. The woman developed gross post-traumatic stress disorder with severe depression. Four years later when her action was settled at mediation, she was still in a dysfunctional state, depressed and unable to work. Despite surveys and articles to the contrary (some statistically defective and some spurious), the link between abortion and breast cancer (the so-called ABC link) has now been established to a high degree of probability.

Three cases in Australia in which abortionists failed to warn of the link and a case in Pennsylvania have been settled at mediation. The abortion industry does not want this litigated in public. In 2005, American attorney Jonathan Clark, who thoroughly prepared the scientific evidence, sued on behalf of a young woman who was given an abortion with no warning of the risk. In January 2005, when the case came on for hearing, rather than contest the plaintiff’s claim, with no doubt wide media coverage, All Women’s Health Services admitted the ABC link and agreed to judgement against it with damages to be assessed. Damages were later agreed at $200,000.Other possible consequences of abortion include the risk of cerebral palsy in subsequent pregnancies due to premature delivery of infants or uterine problems during delivery.

The case of Kristy Bruce who was born with gross cerebral palsy is a salutary warning. An action was brought against the obstetrician on the basis that her cerebral palsy was caused by negligent delivery. A considerable body of expert medical evidence, however, indicated the cerebral palsy was more likely to have been caused by the rupture of her mother’s uterus when labour began, the rupture having resulted from a prior perforation of the uterus during an abortion. The judge accepted that this prior abortion was the probable cause of the rupture of the uterus, that the rupture was the most likely cause of her cerebral palsy, and dismissed her claim. By way of reassurance Jo Wainer mentions that the state regulates abortion services through normal health professional registration and private day-centre regulations, but in my experience there is little evidence of any monitoring of abortion. Frequently, no adequate medical history is obtained, counselling is minimal and usually designed to ensure the abortion (where the real profit lies) takes place. After they operate, medical practitioners are supposed to follow up on their patients.

In the cases with which I was associated, there was no follow up whatever. The abortion industry has sought to disguise the reality of what an abortion is, but ultrasound pictures have made the humanity of the foetus readily apparent. If a woman sees the ultrasound of her unborn child, she is unlikely to proceed with any proposed abortion. Legalising abortion allows the horrific practice of partial-birth abortion, usually performed in the third trimester. The baby is turned around in the womb so it is born feet first. Before the head is completely extruded, instruments are inserted into the baby’s brain which is then sucked out. At that stage the baby’s nervous system is already well developed so that its killing would be agonisingly painful. A substantial majority of the US Congress banned this procedure and the Supreme Court upheld the ban, finding there was no medical reason for performing such an operation. However, partial birth abortions are performed in Queensland and Victoria. The abortion industry in Australia is a disgrace, successive governments having failed to exercise any control over it. What is needed is a full governmental inquiry into the abortion industry and the consequences of it to women. In particular, removal of the profit incentive for abortionists is essential. It is only by such inquiry that the malpractices within the abortion industry and the damage to women will become more widely known. Rather than decriminalising abortion, what is needed is legal protection for women and their foetuses from predatory doctors.

Charles Francis, AM, QC, RFD, is a retired barrister and former Victorian MP.


(Footnotes and references to this article are available from the National Observer website).




Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN