Friday, February 25, 2005

The Howard-Bush-Abbott-Rove-Fundamentalist Christian-abortion nexus

Because so much has been written on them, there are two topics I meant to steer clear of: abortion and Karl Rove. Well, Greg Barns's column in the Seattle Post Intelligencer is so nutty, drawing together Rove and abortion in an Australian context, I just can't resist bringing it to the attention of my readers.

According to Barns:
It's been 25 years since Australia tore itself apart debating the rights and wrongs of abortion. But the issue has resurfaced courtesy of the preparedness of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his advisers to take a leaf out of Karl Rove's tactics textbook and the successful export of U.S. fundamentalist churches to Australia over the past five years.

Come on, I've lived in Australia for almost 30 years and wasn't a youngster when I got here but can't remember the abortion debate tearing the country apart. Granted, abortion isn't exactly an important issue for me but I think I would have noticed.

We're all aware of the influence – control? – Bush has over Howard when it comes to Iraq, now we have to worry about the indirect control over domestic issues being exercised by Rove and U.S.-style fundamentalist Christians. It's a veritable invasion of influence with Howard succumbing early on:
Howard is an unashamed admirer of Rove, President Bush's political tactics mastermind. When Howard introduced his own political strategist, Lynton Crosby, to Bush in 2001, he called him the "Karl Rove of Australian politics."

Realistically, I doubt Howard knew much more about Rove than that he was a political strategist, the political strategist behind Bush's successful presidential campaign.

Barns, through some outside political analysis, then let's us in on Howard's simple yet sinister secret message to Australia's red-necks:
According to Australian political commentator Dennis Glover, Howard is allowing and encouraging the abortion debate to send a political message that would sound eerily familiar to followers of the Bush campaign strategy. The message is simple -- "morally conservative working-class Australians will know that, secretly, if only those rotten elites would let him, John Howard would love to move against abortion."

Of course, Barns doesn't tell his readers Dennis Glover is more than a political commentator, he's a former Labor speech writer. (And, since this column is in an American newspaper, the readers really should have been told.) There's also the little matter of Glover's use of the term "morally conservative", the meaning and relevance of which are questionable.

Barns continues:
In 1979, Australia's national Parliament decided to allow the government-funded medical insurance scheme to cover abortion. And until last year, the issue was off the political and community radar screen. But when Australia's minister for health, Tony Abbott, a practicing Catholic, said in July last year that the community needed to debate the issue again, the anti-abortion groups and many churches quickly swung into action with a new U.S.-style aggressive campaign.

Are Tony Abbott's religious convictions relevant? I honestly don't know. But, I do know that the community's not likely to be stampeded into a debate it doesn't want to have. I'm beginning to get the idea Barns doesn't want abortion to be discussed because he's afraid the community might want change.

To liven things up Barns now tries to convince his readers the Australian anti-abortionists, like their American counterparts, are engaged in scare mongering:
As is the case in the United States, the Australian anti-abortion campaign is focusing on late-term abortions, arguing that any woman who has an abortion is "running a high risk" of long-term psychological damage and that the rate of abortion in society constitutes an "epidemic."

Like their U.S. counterparts, the Australian anti-abortionists know that their aim of a near total ban on abortion is a long-term goal that will be achieved incrementally. So they are focusing on the emotive topic of late-term abortions and urging Australian politicians, as "an initial measure," to follow Bush's lead to ban any abortion performed after 20 weeks gestation.

Yet such abortions are extremely rare in Australia. The total number of reported abortions in Australia is about 73,000 per year -- hardly an epidemic in a nation that has a population of 20 million. In 2003, the number of late-term abortions in Australia's two largest states, New South Wales and Victoria, was around 360.

As the husband of a woman who lost a child seven months into a preganancy and never fully recovered psychologically I can confirm the damage that can be done. 73,000 abortions might not be an epidemic but it's a big number nontheless.

Barns continues with the allegations of anti-abortion scare mongering and then concludes his column by recapping the Rove – Bush – fundamentalist Christian connection:
In the past five years, the U.S. fundamentalist Christian churches have successfully exported their brand of religion and politics to Australia. These churches are funding and fueling the current abortion debate and the Australian anti-abortionists, emboldened by the success of their U.S. counterparts, are embracing the same emotive tactics to win political support. Given John Howard's respect for the ideas and political strategy of George W. Bush and Karl Rove, the hour of the long-dormant Australian anti-abortion movement might be just around the corner.

I'm not emotionally involved in either the abortion or Karl Rove hysterias but do think it interesting that an Australian political commentator has written this column in an American newspaper. The only purpose I can see for him doing so is to try to energise the liberal base in America. If anyone can come up with a better reason, I'd love to hear it.

My thoughts on abortion: such matters are best left to the parties concerned, that is, the woman, her significant other and the medical practitioner. In any event, abortion should not be a form of birth control: women should be responsible for their bodies while they're getting pregnant, not just after they're pregnant. Late term abortions should be allowed only in dire circumstances.

As for Karl Rove, he's a nerdy little guy who's good at political strategy. A Svengali he ain't.


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