On being a prolife Member of Parliament

By Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins

I had the privilege of spending four years in state parliament defending the vulnerable by standing up for the human right to life from conception to natural death.  This ended abruptly at the last election when I was unable to retain my seat after the party I was a part of decided against running a full state campaign.

 

This past Victorian state election was a disappointing and premature end to the political careers of other prolife MPs as well – Graham Watt (previous member for Burwood) and Robert Clark (previous member for Box Hill) stand out as two courageous politicians who fought the Voluntary Assisted Dying bill all night in the lower house only to unexpectedly lose their seats in November.

Graham Watt, who had held a marginal seat for two terms, had an aggressive campaign waged against him by Andrew Denton’s “Dying with Dignity” group. Make no mistake – there was a deliberate attempt to dramatically decrease the numbers of prolife politicians in the Victorian parliament in the last state election. 

I entered parliament because of my core belief in the human dignity of every person from conception to natural death.  It was my determination from the start to begin the process of eroding the Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008.  My Infant Viability Bill, presented in May 2016, which purposed to both roll back late term abortion and to highlight the need to support women in crisis pregnancy was the beginning of this erosion.  Unfortunately, each member of parliament in Victoria can only present a bill on the same theme once per term – and I’ve never met anyone else willing or able to put up another similar bill.  If we had been able to coordinate similar bills in 2017 then again in 2018, I truly believe that we would have seen a significant softening in the approach of Victorian MPs.  I can clearly identify MPs who would have changed their vote (and voted for life) due to the regret they experienced with their vote against my bill – but they were given no opportunity to do so.  (It is interesting to note that these MPs subsequently lost their seats at the last election as well).

Unfortunately the last four years have seen setbacks in other areas: buffer zones were introduced around Victorian abortion clinics (including GP surgeries who perform early term abortions and pharmacies who dispense RU486), Queensland adopted Victorian-style abortion legislation, and “voluntary assisted dying” (a euthanasia regime) was passed in Victoria, with an implementation date just a few months away.  Furthermore, with the passing of same sex adoption legislation, we are seeing an increased push for surrogacy which we will need to fight against in the near future.

Now is not the time to give up.

We have a lot of unfinished business.

The policy and legislative assaults we experienced in the last Victorian state parliamentary term were relentless, sustained and planned. They were a culmination of years of strategic thinking.  With an almost absolute majority in the state, and with the loss of so many prolife voices, we must be prepared for further attack.

So often we spend our time reacting to what is going on – which is necessary and right. This also leads to frustration when we don’t get to work as proactively as we would like.  I believe we need to get this balance right so that our prolife movement can move forward – ie, we need to learn from the ‘other side’ and work together to systematically, methodically and deliberately achieve our aim of upholding life as a basic human right.

I’m going to finish off with an encouragement to everyone reading this to not be discouraged by the tangible opposition we have had to life in our previous and current parliaments – but to be keep going. 

To keep going because we still need to give the unborn a voice – they are voiceless without us.

To keep going because vulnerable people near the end of their lives need to be protected from euthanasia and assisted dying measures being forced on them.

And to keep going because to give up would mean more heartbeats will be systematically, methodically and deliberately stopped.

Until next time,

Since leaving Parliament, Dr Rachel has developed and launched a new website and social media presence where she is writing a weekly blog, “Life with Dr Rachel” and running a life-column, “Let’s talk about Life with Dr Rachel” where subscribers can have their dilemmas addressed.   To subscribe or to submit a question or comment please go to her website: www.drrachelcarling.com.au


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