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THERE has been media commentary about the leader of the National Party in Victoria, Peter Ryan, meeting the religious group Exclusive Brethren.

The inference being that there might be something untoward about such a meeting.

Ryan has pointed out that he met four men from the Exclusive Brethren for about 30 minutes in September.

He said they asked his views on a variety of social issues and apart from an exchange of views, "offered nothing to me, which is no surprise because I sought nothing from them".

"For the media or anyone else to read anything sinister into these discussions is ridiculous," he said.

"Interestingly, we now find that deputations from the Exclusive Brethren have also met with Phillip Davis from the Liberal Party, Bob Brown and the Greens, Justice Alastair Nicholson, and the Prime Minister . . ."

While the media gets hyped up about groups such as the Exclusive Brethren, who so far as I know have not suggested exterminating anyone, born or unborn, there is not the same scrutiny directed towards Emily's List.

This is the pro-abortion claque of feminists who have a stranglehold on the Victorian Labor Party and its state conference. They have compelled a somewhat reluctant Premier Bracks to commit to the decriminalisation of abortion up to the time of birth.

Decriminalisation of abortion would remove the last vestige of protection not only for the unborn but also for doctors, nurses and hospital staff who do not want to be involved in such procedures.

While Health Minister Bronwyn Pike has gone out of her portfolio responsibilities to attack the influence on politics of the "religious Right", notably the Family First party, she appears to have overlooked research on the health effects of abortion on women and their subsequent children.

Fifteen eminent UK physicians, including top specialists in psychiatry, wrote to the London Times in October, stating that research published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in January has shown that even women without past mental health problems are at risk of psychological ill-effects after abortion.

Women who had abortions had twice the level of mental health problems and three times the risk of major depressive illness as those who had given birth or never been pregnant. The physicians say this research "has prompted the American Psychological Association to withdraw an official statement denying a link between abortion and psychological harm".

Since women having abortions can no longer be said to have a low risk of suffering from psychiatric conditions such as depression, doctors have a duty to advise about long-term adverse psychological consequences of abortion.

Then there is the link between abortion and premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. Prematurity is the greatest risk factor for the survival and health of newborns and several articles in reputable medical journals have warned of the risk of cerebral palsy following premature birth, as this item from the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology warns:

"There are at least 17 studies that have found that previous induced abortions increase pre-term birth risk.

"The latest of these studies reported on 61,000 Danish women and is one of the largest studies ever linking `terminations' to later prematurity. Why the silence about the abortion-prematurity risk and cerebral palsy from medical researchers?"

These are issues the media and Health Minister Pike should focus on, not myths about the "religious Right".




BABETTE FRANCIS is co-ordinator of the Endeavour Forum, a counter- feminist, anti-abortion group



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN