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Article
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Activism
Politics

Tell him he’s dreaming: Geoff Shaw and abortion

When, during his run for office in 2010, a local paper asked Geoff Shaw to reveal his ‘secrets’ – things people in the area might be surprised to learn about him  – he replied, ‘I’m a third Dan blackbelt in karate … I play footy for the Frankston District Tiger Sharks. I play the bagpipes and the drums. I love Phil Collins. I’ve seen him live.’ And so on.

Note the surprising absence of any deep religiosity – from a man who declared on the 7.30 Report in February that he was a Christian first, then an MP. That was an admission that surprised many in his electorate: there was no (and remains no) mention of his convictions on his official website nor any of his election material. In fact, Frankston residents I’ve spoken with who voted for Shaw – he went door-to-door securing their votes – were astonished to learn he was anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality or that he was a Christian Revivalist who, in all matters, turns to the Bible first.

Geoff Shaw’s evangelical Peninsula City Church belongs to the CRC (Christian Revival Crusade) Churches International movement, whose charter reads:

We will uphold marriage as a life-long, monogamous, legally-performed marriage between a man and woman, in which there is constant love, continual care, mutual respect, Godly order, submission and sexual intimacy. We also uphold the family as the basic social unit of society.

The organisation stresses the importance of living the Biblical Word, ‘the God-inspired multiplication strategy of covering the earth with churches’, and the need to resist the fads of ‘constantly changing society’. The church is notorious for its reactionary views on gender submission, abortion, homosexuality and missionary work, particularly in Uganda.

Everything’s simple in the CRC world: men are on top, Jesus is white and the only religious text to have ever existed is the Bible.

It’s not clear how many members Shaw’s church has, but they’ve only 472 likes on Facebook. It’s a critical point, I think: Geoff Shaw has, with the assistance of Denis Napthine’s office, drafted a Private Member’s Bill to change Victorian abortion law – but his views are not at all representative, because 85 per cent of Victorians support a woman’s right to choose abortion on demand (figures that are reflected nationally, too), and only a fraction of the population (less than 10 per cent) think abortion should be a criminal act, or harder to access.

One in three women in Australia will have an abortion by the age of 45. Since the reform in 2008, abortion has been legal in Victoria up until 24 weeks. Fortunately, 90 per cent of Victorian abortions take place before eleven weeks of pregnancy – because it’s difficult and costly to get an abortion after sixteen weeks.

Shaw’s bill proposes outlawing gender selective abortion, eliminating Section 8, providing mandatory ‘family counselling’, ending partial-birth abortions and the revival of foetuses.

All of which are outrageous, because:

  • gender selective abortion is a myth, as Waleed Aly pointed out in his jaw-dropping interview with Geoff Shaw last night (mp3)
  • doctors already have a conscientious objection: they don’t have to perform abortions
  • counselling is a standard part of Australian abortion practice
  • ‘partial-birth abortion’ is an intentionally misleading term that has no relevance in Australia, but awfulises the already awful situation of late-term abortion and miscarriage
  • revival of foetuses is particularly perverse considering that a 20-week-old foetus cannot live outside a womb

What Shaw and his creepy cronies still don’t get is that we’ve already won this argument: the majority of Australians think that a woman has the right to decide whether she remains pregnant. Moreover, 81 per cent support doctors being compelled to provide emergency abortions and the same number think exclusion zones outside clinics, such as the East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic, which is targeted daily by antiabortionists, would be a good thing.

Such political wins are rare, but we see them in same-sex marriage and capital punishment, too. Opposition to abortion was much stronger in the 1960s and 70s but social opinion has shifted radically.

That’s why, when Geoff Shaw started trumpeting his vision for Victorian abortion law late last year, Denis Napthine released a video opposing him within a few hours. Geoff Shaw is not the only anti-abortion politician in Victoria, as the Abortion Law Reform vote showed. In the Liberal Party alone there’s Bernie Finn, Denis Napthine, Heidi Victoria (current minister for Women’s Affairs), Matthew Guy, Christine Fyffe and others. But it’s an issue on which politicians differ to their voting publics – that is, the people they supposedly represent. While Shaw holds the balance of power, the Liberal Party knows the tide of public opinion will crash down on them if they allow the bill to be debated – and that it could mean election suicide come November.

After all, which politicians are running on a platform of repealing Victorian abortion law? None, not even Geoff Shaw.

For more of an insight into the minds of anti-abortionists, check out this segment on the Fertility Control Clinic from SBS’s The Feed (starring regular Overland contributor, Elizabeth O’Shea):

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jacinda Woodhead is the editor of Overland. Her PhD research examined abortion politics in Australia and nonfiction as political intervention.

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Comments

  1. The interview with Waleed Aly is actually really hilarious. I love when Geoff Shaw says he’s not there to answer questions.

  2. While you’re all outraged over a man’s choice of English, none of you care to discuss what he wants to change, please search YouTube hidden cameras partial birth abortion, and before you scream that it’s done to save the mothers life also research what percentage was done elective.
    You will defend your right to choose even when it means babies having brains sucked out without painkillers. Unbelievable

  3. The Aly-Shaw non-interview/debate? Amusing for sure, but pretty much standard party political practise from what I’ve seen over the last 10 years or so: agree to be interviewed and keep on saying what you prepared beforehand regardless of the question.

  4. Hey folks, also please note – Shaw has resigned from the Liberal Party. He is struggling to stay in Parliament with an election coming up. This is one of those ‘tried and true’ topics to stir the pot. Let’s hope the major parties have credible candidates in Frankston.
    Jane, you will find that late term abortion is very rare in Australia where the laws make early abortion fairly accessible compared to the US.

  5. Thanks for posting this Jacinda — off to listen to the interview. Shaw’s hidden fundamentalism is disturbing (let alone his stance on women’s right to choose!).

  6. One glaring inaccuracy in your report is that Peninsula City Church hasn’t been affiliated with the CRC movement for at least 12 months now, so perhaps check your facts in future.

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