In Abortion

A motion to end Medicare funding of second trimester abortions

Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett, who was a keynote speaker at the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life’s Make Abortion History rally held at Parliament House in Perth on 22 May 2008, has acted on his promise to do something to stop the use of taxpayer funding for second trimester and late abortions.

On 17 June 2008 Senator Barnett gave notice of a motion to disallow Item 16525 of the Medicare General Services Table. This item provides for a payment of $267 to medical practitioners for a second trimester abortion, which is an abortion performed between 14 and 26 weeks of pregnancy. Since 1994 the Australian taxpayers have paid about $1.7 million for more than 10,000 second trimester and late abortions. In 2007 alone the Australian taxpayers paid over $150,000 for nearly 800 late-term abortions.

Senator Barnett told the Senate in a speech on 24 June that Medicare was funding abortions using the notorious partial birth abortion method that is now banned in the US. Statistics from Victoria showed that “in 2005 some 47 babies out of 309, or 15 per cent of the post-20-week abortions in Victoria, were actually born alive and then simply left to die.”

Senator Barnett cited the good news stories of Zak Rowles, born in Sydney at just 23 weeks gestation but now flourishing, and Leah Bowlen who was just 22 weeks old in her mother’s womb when the brilliant surgical team at Monash Medical Centre operated on her to remove amniotic bands from above her left ankle. This in utero surgery saved Leah’s left leg.

He asked “How can it be right to use government Medicare funding to intentionally end the lives of babies old enough to survive outside the womb or to benefit from in-utero surgery?”

Senator Barnett concluded “By doing nothing, the Senate is effectively authorising these abortions to be funded and continue unchecked. The Senate has the power to disallow any regulation. In light of the evidence about late abortions, I was compelled by my conscience to move to disallow Medicare funding.”

Victorian Senator Julian McGauran has also spoken in the Senate in support of Senator Barnett’s motion. He said “The aim of the disallowance motion is to withdraw Medicare funding for second trimester abortions. The effect of the disallowance motion will be to trigger a debate on the subject of late-term abortions when the parliament returns in the spring session.

“This is an overdue debate in society. It is an issue that has been successfully hidden away, wrapped in society’s acceptance of early-term abortions. But it is a much worse procedure, as are the reasons for it. I believe it is time to put the brakes on the runaway culture of violence that has developed in our hospitals and within the medical profession. It is as easy to get a late-term abortion as it is to get an early-term abortion. As is the case with such moral issues, the matter will be a conscience vote—a time when parliamentarians are released from their party obligations and are left alone to rely on their conscience to decide their vote.”

The vote on the disallowance motion is scheduled to be held on 17 September. For the vote to be successful it needs 39 out of the 76 senators to vote for the motion. If this happens then Medicare funding of second trimester abortions would immediately cease. There is no requirement for the motion to be voted on in the House of Representatives as well.


1. Download, read and pass to your friends the comprehensive briefing paper on the motion that is available from Senator Barnett’s website at: 

2. Collect signatures this weekend on the enclosed petition from your family and friends and at your church. Additional copies can be printed from: Please note that time is short and the petitions must be returned prior to 17 September.

3. Write to senators (at Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600), or email or telephone them ( 02 6277 7111 between 1-4 September or 15-16 September when the senators will be in Canberra and ask for the senator’s office). Urge them to vote for the motion to stop Medicare funds being used to abort babies between 14 and 26 weeks of pregnancy. The vote on the motion is expected to take place on 17 September.

The 12 Senators are:

Senator Judith Adams,

Senator Mark Bishop,

Senator Michaelia Cash,

Senator Mathias Cormann,

Senator Alan Eggleston,

Senator the Hon Chris Ellison,

Senator the Hon Chris Evans

Senator the Hon David Johnston,

Senator Scott Ludlam,

Senator Louise Pratt,

Senator Rachel Siewert,

Senator Glenn Sterle,

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