EXCLUSIVE: Labor needs to stop exploiting the abortion issue

Julie Bishop




This post has been written in response to an article posted on Mamamia yesterday by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, you can read that HERE.

It is deeply troubling that Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has sought to exploit the very personal, emotional and often traumatic issue of abortion to launch a selective and misleading political attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
For the record, I am pro-choice and voted in support of the 2006 legislation to remove the effective Ministerial veto over approval of the abortion drug RU486.

Ms Plibersek makes the false assertion that as Health Minister Tony Abbott misrepresented advice from the Chief Medical Officer at the time. Not only is it untrue, Tony in fact publicly released that advice in 2005. Ms Plibersek also asserts that Tony Abbot sought to retain a veto over RU-486 “so he could prevent it being imported into Australia”.

Yet the readily-available official public record shows that assertion is also false.

It has been Tony Abbott’s consistent position that the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia has sole responsibility for the registration of RU-486 and he has confirmed that he will not change that arrangement in government.

Tanya Plibersek

Ms Plibersek well knows this to be the case, for shortly after the Parliamentary debate on RU486, her NSW Labor colleague and MP John Murphy asked Tony Abbott in the Parliament in March 2006 about “the article published on the Catholic News Agency website on 20 March 2006 titled ‘Two more women die after taking abortion drug RU-486’ which reported that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not pulled Mifeprex, the drug known as RU-486, despite the fact that the FDA has reported that two more women died after taking the drug, that there have been seven reported deaths in the USA and 12 deaths worldwide of women who took RU-486 and that the FDA has received more than 800 reports of complications caused by the drug RU-486.” Mr Murphy also asked what actions Minister Abbott was taking to “prevent the sale of RU-486”.


Tony responded by pointing out that at that time RU-486 was not registered for legal use in Australia and that “The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the Commonwealth regulatory agency responsible for the regulation of therapeutic goods in Australia.

The Government has no position on the suitability of RU486 (mifepristone) for use in Australia because the quality, safety and efficacy of the drug for general marketing has not been assessed by the TGA. This is because no sponsor has ever applied to register RU486 in Australia.”

One wonders why Ms Plibersek has been so selective in singling out Tony Abbott for voting against the 2006 legislation to remove Ministerial oversight over RU-486, when two of her currently-serving Cabinet colleagues, Environment Minister Tony Burke and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy along with other Labor members also voted against that legislation.

Tony Abbott

Has Ms Plibersek called on her own Cabinet colleagues to clarify their attitudes regarding abortion?

As Ms Plibersek is now Health Minister, one also wonders why she failed to disclose her membership of EMILY’s List, an organisation founded in the United States to support pro-choice women into public office.

That organisation has been strongly criticised for its support of totally unregulated abortion including late-term abortion. Many women who are pro-choice, like me, find these propositions deeply troubling.

Tony Abbott’s public position on abortion is that it be “safe, legal and rare”.

Ms Plibersek’s demands for disclosure from others would have more credibility if she adopted the same standards for herself and revealed her attitude towards EMILY’S List support for unregulated and late-term abortion.

Sadly, her article in Mamamia yesterday was part of Labor’s dishonest campaign against Tony Abbott, rather than a genuine attempt to debate health policy.

Julie Bishop is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Shadow Minister for Trade.