I Cause a Near Riot in Synod
A funny thing happened just before the 1988 Diocesan Synod.
I was tending the roses in the big circular rose bed I had made at the Lang Lang Rectory. I don’t think I was thinking anything of note. Suddenly I was sure God was telling me he wanted to put a motion to synod. That in itself was a worry. But the content was worse. He wanted me to put a motion saying that “abortion on demand” which was the catch-cry of the day was wrong. I had not previously even thought of activism on this issue. I was not sanguine of success. But I was obedient and I sent in the motion.
When the time came to speak to my motion I was rather nervous. I started my speech. I never got to finish it I was howled down by shouts of rage and fury. How dare I question “a woman’s right to abortion”! As I recall Gideon got a similar response when he pulled down the altar to Baal in his home town!
The motion never went to a vote. The bishop suggested Synod refer the matter to the Social Responsibilities Committee for a report to the next Synod. I was seconded to the Committee.
The Chairman of the committee was a very deft politician and knew how to manipulate a committee. He made it quite clear at the first meeting that the final report would be unashamedly pro-abortion. But we went through the motions of looking into the topic. Several reports from other Anglican dioceses were circulated. Apart from the Sydney diocese one (which incidentally was well and intelligently written) they were all pro-abortion and all complete rubbish.
These Anglican reports got to me in a big way. They were all complete balderdash! Worse, they were smugly self satisfied with woolly thinking and sheer obstinate ignorance.
I had been going back to the Monash University library to read up on this topic. Monash was the home of professor Peter Singer and Helga Khuse who were noted pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia campaigners, so the library was well stocked with pro-abortion writings. But at least these writers had thought about the issue. I might think they were wrong, but I would not accuse them of being ignorant.
By contrast the Anglican papers were so poorly thought out and so lacking any attempt to find out what the argument was about that they would have got an instant fail as a first year essay! These Anglican writers could and should be accused of “pig ignorance”!
I thought: “This is not good enough! The church should have something to say on moral questions affecting large proportions of the population! The church should have people who have at least understood what secular moralists on both sides were saying. The church should not be smugly self satisfied at putting out drivel that a first year student would be embarrassed to write!” I was angry!
I spent more time in the Monash library. Yes they did have books on both sides of the question, but more importantly for me they had statistics! A lot of the pro-abortion arguments had been special pleading “Oh the terrible plight of the woman pregnant due to rape” …. Well how often does that happen? Should that be what the rules are based on, or should it just be an “exceptional circumstance” in which the rule is waived? Or again “Oh, the mothers who die because they are not allowed an abortion by heard hearted (male) priests”. Well that would be indeed terrible, but just what proportion of abortions currently are on the grounds of medical necessity to save the mothers life? Does anyone know?
There is an old adage “Hard cases make bad laws”. Was this happening on this issue, or were these “hard cases” the norm. Untill then writers world wide didn’t really know because there were just no reliable statistics. I found they did exist, and that they existed in Australia!
South Australia had made abortion legal, but they had required doctors to submit certain details for statistical analysis. This had been done over a period of I think about ten years and the statistics were analysed and published by the government medical officers involved. The results were stunning. In Australia at the most generous assessment 95% of abortions were carried out not for any of the “hard case” reasons given by lobbyists, but because it was economically or socially inconvenient for the mother to give birth to a live baby.
I also found that even communist governments were concerned at rising abortion rates – not out of any moral qualms but just as a women’s health issue, and researchers had been looking at changes needed to be made in working and domestic conditions to reduce the abortion rate. Given this I found the Anglican Church’s fanatical pro-abortion stance puzzling. They were not truly helping women by their dogmatic stance.
I am jumping forward a bit but I prepared a “dissenting report” which detailed the results of my research, I sent a copy to the bishop but I heard no more. Its style is much more analytical and reflective the style of the research papers I had been reading at that time than the later one which I wrote while studying moral philosophy at Melbourne University, but you can download both from www.Anglicanfuture.org