The petition was sponsored by the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life and was calling for an inquiry into late-term abortions being performed in Western Australia- that is from 20 weeks onwards. Abortion was legalised in WA in 1998 and late term abortions are legal with the consent of two medical practitioners who determine that the procedure is justified.
The most common reason given is the likelihood of the baby being born with severe genetic disorders or abnormalities, including Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida.
I cannot imagine the heartache experienced by expectant parents when they are faced with the news that there is a high risk their pregnancy will result in the birth of a child who will not grow up to enjoy life as a normal boy or girl. Life would never be the same. I have some idea, having worked for a time with people who have intellectual disabilities.
I am about to welcome my third child into the world and three times now I have turned down the opportunity to have a blood test to determine more accurately my risk in carrying a child with severe abnormalities. Being given a choice about the fate of my unborn child would be incredibly traumatic and lead to months of anguish.
Depending on the results of the blood test, further investigation is conducted by way of a diagnostic test called an amniocentesis. This involves examining a sample of amniotic fluid from the uterus. One website states the test carries a small risk to the health of the baby but can predict 'with almost complete certainty.'
It was routinely assumed I would have the blood test and then the more invasive amniocentesis procedure depending on those results. I imagined myself in the worst case scenario down the track, meeting with my husband and the Doctor to hear the 'almost certain' bad news and discuss the sensible options available to us from that point onwards.
Because I don't think I could handle that situation, I asserted my right to stay ignorant. Though I did succumb to finding out the sex of my baby to appease my older children who were fervently arguing for the gender of their choice!
One of the problems is that the amniocentesis test is performed between 15 and 18 weeks and once the results finally become known, the presence of a living unborn baby is unmistakable. At 20 weeks I had an obvious baby bump made by the little person inside who I believe has a God-given reason for living. The mother who enters the second half of her pregnancy and then is given reason to end it all has my deepest sympathy for what must be a desperately agonising time.
It's 'simpler' for me to choose not to be as informed as I might otherwise be.
Donna MacFarlane is married with three children and is a former Olympic athlete, now living in Western Australia.