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The fate of babies born alive after failed abortions is not known by many Australians.  Indeed it is Australia's darkest secret.  These babies - born alive, but unwanted - are left to die.  Listen to the live testimony by Professor Joanna Howe at the Senate Inquiry into the Human Rights (Children Born Alive) Protection Bill 2022 this year.

Submission to the Inquiry into the Human Rights (Children Born Alive) Protection Bill 2022 by Right to Life Australia Inc. READ THE SUBMISSION.

The question needs to be asked - what is the difference between a 23-week-old premature baby and a 23-week-old baby born alive during an abortion?

Professor Joanna Howe

Professor Joanna Howe

Should a 23-week-old premature baby and a 23-week-old baby born alive during an abortion be afforded the same care? Yes.

A bill to enshrine the rights of these children has been introduced into the Australian Federal Parliament.   The bill aims to remove the discrimination against the babies born alive which currently exists – discrimination against a child based on how that child was brought into the world.

On 30 November 2022 Nationals Senator The Hon Matthew Canavan, Liberal Senator Alex Antic and Senator Ralph BABET (United Australia Party) sponsored a private members' bill into the Australian Parliament - to protect the rights of children born alive after an abortion.

On 8 June 2023 the Senate Committee invited a number of organisations  including Right to Life Australia Inc. to an oral hearing where evidence was presented about the reasons and evidence about the bill.

Senator The Hon. Matthew Canavan explains in an article he wrote for CQ Today (04/12/2022 ) -that Australia has obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to protect babies born after the fatal attempt of an abortion.

Article 6 says "every child has the inherent right to life" and article 24 says that Governments must "ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children".

It is the right and obligation articulated in the Convention that the Senators' bill seeks to hold the Australian government to account.  The Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill 2022 requires health professionals to provide medical care to babies born alive during an abortion procedure.

This is no different than a child who is born premature, or at any gestational age. This bill would require all children to be treated with the same rights to medical care when they are born. This bill seeks not to discriminate medical care towards a child based on how that child was brought into the world.

A comprehensive new study of premature babies by Bell and colleagues1 in the United States is helping to redefine what it means for a premature infant to survive.
The study looked at 10,877 babies born between 2013 and 2018 and found a significant improvement in survival of those born between 22 and 28 weeks, compared to the past. Some 78% were rescued, compared to 76% of those born between 2008 and 2012.

This study showed that even those delivered at 22 weeks -- 18 weeks early -- had a chance of living. With active treatment, about 28% of them survived; among those born at 23 weeks, 55% survived. This study could change the conversation about the viability of babies, abortion, and babies born during abortion.

Canavan says the bill is necessary, because such protections for babies born alive do not currently exist in Australia. For instance, the State Government of Queensland's Queensland Clinical Guidelines – Termination of Pregnancy page 24 states if the baby is born alive, "do not provide life sustaining treatment", but rather "document date and time end of life occurs".

Critics of the bill have made several tenuous claims about the bill.. This includes the argument that this bill:

  • 'Is redundant, as there is a very low chance that the foetus will live, even with life sustaining health care',
  • 'Misrepresents (or misunderstands) the complexities of foetal viability.'
  • 'Seeks to regulate an extremely rare, if non-existent phenomenon.'

As shown in evidence at the Senate hearings held in Canberra Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill 2022  these statements do not reflect available evidence.

Government figures from Queensland and Victoria show that hundreds of babies have been born alive after an abortion in the ten-year period between 2010-2020 (396 in Victoria and 328 in Queensland). We also know that the reasons to why women are having late term abortions are for "psycho-social' reasons, i.e   not based on the baby's medical condition.

Mary Collier - CEO The Right to Life Australia Inc. highlights the reality of babies born alive after abortion, citing Australia's Victorian state government's Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity report called Victoria's Mothers and Babies Report 2020.

She said, "Late-term abortions are not restricted to babies deemed ''imperfect' as many would have us believe. We know already that babies with Down Syndrome, club hand, cleft palate, and other conditions are subject to late-term abortions. What is unknown is that late abortions are being performed for a whole range of psycho-social reasons."

The study by Bell colleagues2 and looking at premature births shows infants at the lowest gestational ages -- 22 and 23 weeks – have a fighting chance of life if they are actively resuscitated.

"There has been a shift toward considering a more active initial treatment in prenatal discussions with families over the past several years in light of increasing data to support this approach," said Susan Hintz3.

Canavan states "How is this policy, how are these deaths, in accordance with our international obligation as a nation to every child having the right to life, every child having access to health care and reducing the deaths of babies?"

Ms Collier calls every Australian to seek justice for these babies, stating, "Every case of a baby born alive after an abortion must be referred to the coroner for investigation. These babies deserve the same care and attention as any other baby born alive at that gestation."

Right to Life Australia Inc. remains dedicated to protecting the rights of the unborn and will continue to advocate for legislation that upholds the sanctity of life.

What now?

Please write to your Senators and House of Representatives Members asking them to support the Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill 2022.  The Senate will produce a report on 31 August 2023 on the Inquiry into the bill.  This bill MUST progress to debate.

Click here to contact your Senators and MPs

1Bell, E., Hintz, S., Hansen, N., Bann, S., Wyckoff, M., DeMauro, S., Walsh, M., Vohr, B., Stoll., B,. Carlo, W,. Van Meurs, K., Rysavy, W., Patel, R., Merhar, S., Sánchez, P., Laptook, R., Hibbs, M., Cotten, M., D'Angio, J., Winter, A., Fuller, J., & Das, A. (2022). Feticide and late termination of pregnancy: an essential component of reproductive health care" Med J Aust 2022; 217 (8).  doi: 10.5694/mja2.51727


3Susan Hintz is works in the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Department of Paediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, and a co-author on this study.