By MIA FREEDMAN
The day Tony Abbott was elected leader of the opposition, I was quite irate. Seared in my mind was his interference in the issue of the introduction of abortion drug RU486 into Australia when he was health minister. Back then, women from all sides of politics – including the coalition – banded together to overturn any personal power he was able to wield in his role as health minister and ensure it remained a medical issue.
Rightfully. As it always should have been.
But it was an alarming episode that alerted voters to the potential for personal views to impede public policy.
How could we not be alarmed? Tony Abbott made some concerning remarks about abortion at that time, plainly influenced by his religious beliefs. These included “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience” and describing the annual abortion rate of 100,000 as “a legacy of unutterable shame”.
So when he became the leader of the opposition back in 2009, like many women I was a little freaked out. I wrote an impassioned post about what a dark day it was for women and stated my disbelief that the Liberal party could have elected as its alternative Prime Minister, a man who was opposed to abortion, contraception, stem cell research and IVF.
I may also have said he pulled the wings off butterflies. I was fairly overwrought.
Quickly, I amended the post and corrected some factual errors. While the abortion point remained, his positions on contraception and IVF were unclear so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and withdrew those accusations.