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Beryl Holmes
President (1987-92)
Children by Choice Association, QLD

ACCORDING TO THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SOMEWHERE between a quarter and half a million women die every year from illegal abortion (Short 1991). This is an 'epidemic' of gigantic proportions. Usually great efforts are made to curb tragic and unnecessary deaths, such as those from smallpox, malaria and AIDS. It is surprising then that almost nothing has been done about this shocking worldwide tragedy of the deaths of so many women from backyard abortion. While the deaths from epidemics are accidentally caused, these deaths from abortion result from government policies.

This is in itself a statement about the current status of women around the world. If the reasons abortion laws came into being could be established, it might explain why governments currently act, or do not act, in the way they do. Feminists proclaim that the history of patriarchal societies and anti-feminist cultures has been about power and control in the family, and that abortion is part of this story. Others point out that the need to control women's sexuality is because men do not take responsibility for theirs.

Research into the history of abortion therefore results in somewhat confused and different views in relation to community use, acceptance, morality and the legality of abortion practice.
The Church
Over the last two centuries, with the centralisation of power in the Catholic church, various ideas on abortion have been standardised into a single inflexible position, that is, that the church is convinced all abortion is wrong (Pius IX Aclae Santae Sedis 5298, Conscience 1991.)

The limited historical records suggest that the legal position on abortion has been uncertain. There are some records indicating that abortion was considered (by those in authority) a punishable offence, yet the practice appears to have been commonplace. Keown (1988) cites cases (1327, 1348,...
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