born alive

National Law Needed to Protect Babies Born Alive After Failed Abortions

29 December 2023

2.6 MINS

There is currently no national law protecting babies born alive after a failed abortion. This means that those babies have no legal rights and, in some cases, are left to die without any medical care. The Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill was originally introduced by the Hon. George Christensen into federal parliament in 2021.

It sought to place a duty of care on medical practitioners to provide the same requisite care to babies who are born alive after a failed abortion as that provided to a child born under any other circumstance. Breaching that duty would incur a penalty, and there is an obligation for medical practitioners to report to the federal Department of Health on children born alive as
a result of abortions.

The bill has been reintroduced into the Senate in 2022 by Senator Matt Canavan, and I admire him for doing so. I would also like to commend my federal Liberal colleague and friend, Senator Alex Antic, for co-sponsoring this bill. Both senators are working hard to defend and protect the rights of babies who are born alive after a failed abortion. I wholeheartedly support this bill, which is about protecting the most vulnerable in our society. The bill’s explanatory memorandum states that, and I quote:

In Australia, the protection of all human life is core to the values we uphold as a nation. The purpose of this bill is to enhance Australia’s human rights protections for children, by ensuring that all children are afforded the same medical care and treatment as any other person, including those born alive as a result of a termination…

Australia has voluntarily accepted obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR). Denying babies born alive medical care and treatment places Australia in breach of its international obligations under the CRC and the ICCPR which codify the right to life and adequate quality healthcare.

Multiple Cases

A 2018 research paper published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology examined 241 instances of late-term abortions performed on foetuses where foeticide was not carried out. The study found that over 50 per cent of the babies were delivered alive, with an average lifespan of 32 minutes. One baby survived for more than four hours. According to a submission made by the Canberra Declaration to the Senate inquiry, there are multiple examples of babies born alive.

Some of these stories include: Tim, a Down syndrome diagnosis survivor, who was left to die without medical care for nine hours but survived; Gianna Jessen, who survived a saline abortion and now advocates for the rights of babies born alive following abortion; Melissa Ohden, who was found crying amongst medical waste at a hospital by a nurse and went on to live a healthy life; and an unnamed baby zipped into a medical bag while still breathing at Westmead Hospital in Sydney.

I am pleased to say that in South Australia, care is provided. I provided my support to amendments put forward in this parliament in 2021 to the then Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Those amendments mandated that requisite medical care be provided to babies born alive after a failed termination. Under section 7 of the South Australian Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021, entitled ‘Care of person born after termination’, medical professionals are under the same duty to provide medical care to a baby born alive as a baby born other than as a result of a termination.

I note that New South Wales has passed a similar law to South Australia, and Queensland Health has also recently changed their guidelines to require this same care. However, other states and territories have failed to pass such laws, meaning that fundamental birth outcomes now vary from state to state.

The provision of medical care should be based on a formal equality principle, with all newborn babies entitled to equal medical treatment under the law nationally. Again, I commend my colleagues Senators Alex Antic and Matt Canavan. I support their efforts, and I urge the federal parliament to pass this bill.


Photo by Sam Rana.

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  1. Trina Watson 29 December 2023 at 9:36 am - Reply

    This is heartbreaking! I’m sure people would be charged with animal cruelty if this was inflicted on animals! There have been recent incidents where puppies and kittens have been found in rubbish bins etc, resulting in public outcry and attempts to find the perpetrators to prosecute them! My heart breaks for these little ones and I know they are precious to our Father in Heaven!

  2. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 30 December 2023 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Its murder !

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