Cherish Life launches federal campaign


[Peter Gleeson] Now to the very emotional and complex subject of abortion. Abortion in this country is largely regulated by the states and territories, rather than the federal government, with guidelines around the procedure varying in each jurisdiction. Labor has already signalled its intention to campaign for free, safe, and accessible abortion in public hospitals and clinics if Bill Shorten is elected as Prime Minister. Pro-life group Cherish Life, who unsuccessfully fought the Palaszczuk Labour government's move to decriminalise abortion in Queensland now says it will target the ALP during the federal election campaign. And for more, I'm joined by Cherish Life Executive Director, Teeshan Johnson. And Teeshan, you believe your fight will cost Labor votes and, ultimately, seats.

[Teeshan Johnson] Yes, absolutely. A lot of people, when they understand that this would mean more abortions throughout Australia. There's already about 80,000 abortions a year. And this would actually pay, taxpayers would be paying for more abortions throughout Australia, a bill about $60 million. Research has shown that people are becoming more and more life-centric, and most people disagree with abortion. 60% of people disagree with abortion passed 13 weeks gestation. And, you know, Victoria has abortion up until birth for any reason. Now Queensland has abortion up until birth for any reason. ACT does. Northern Territory, 23 weeks. People would be appalled if they actually understood what Labor had in terms of their abortion policy. I should also note, Peter, that our abortion laws are very, as well as being brutal, our abortion rate is very high. It's 19.1 per thousand women aged between 15 and 44 years old. America, by comparison, in the United States of America was only 11. And also, Germany is only nine. So ours is right up there and that's very concerning for a developed nation.

[Peter] Tell us about the campaign that you launched to try and stop the Palaszczuk government from doing this. We know that the vote was incredibly controversial. There was a lot of pro-abortion supporters down there on the night. I actually happened to be there on the night seeing someone else. But take us through what you tried to achieve there. And it was pretty close. In the end, it was a conscience vote. How did you go about that? And what sort of research did you do to try and convince politicians that this was not the right way to go?

[Teeshan] Yes, we did extensive Galaxy poll research, in fact, the biggest poll on abortion in the whole of Queensland. And we saw that only 3% of woman actually agreed with abortion up until birth, and 6% of Queensland. So their bill, which ultimately became an Act, actually went against community standards. We engaged whole regions. We've matched five times, twice in Brisbane, and three at the regions. We did research on, we split men and women, and we found that women are decidedly more pro-life. People don't agree with abortion up until birth for social reasons. And when people actually think women considering abortion should have safeguards like independent counselling, mandatory cooling-off period before having an abortion. When you see the doctor and when you get the termination. And those things are standard in European models. We did lobby many, many seats, particularly, Labor. At the end of the day, I don't think it really was a conscience vote.

[Peter] You believe they followed the party line.

[Teeshan] Of course. There was manipulation, abuse, and threats of losing their preselection.

[Peter] Really?

[Teeshan] Yeah, that's what I heard from a few people.

[Peter] Yeah.

[Teeshan] Yeah.

[Peter] Okay, so switching to the federal arena, I mean, what are you going to do in the lead up to the May election as far as enlightening people on what Bill Shorten's plans are for this particular piece of legislation?

[Teeshan] Absolutely. We're going to be, specifically, targeting some EMILY's List seats. So EMILY's List, obviously, is like the abortion funnel into politics. It's very aggressive. They have this very unusual extreme violent feminism ideology that, basically, the pinnacle of female empowerment equals the legal right to kill your baby up until term. So we're targeting EMILY's Listers. There's 22, EMILY's Listers - all ALP, of course. It's a function of the ALP. We think we can possibly roll about six of them out of their seats, they're winnable seats. We're also offering support to pro-life candidates or MP's who will commit to us. If things go badly for us in the election and Labor does get in there, will try to block anything that comes through.

[Peter] I was going to say, what other pro-life groups are you forming an alliance with as you go towards the federal election?

[Teeshan] Yeah, definitely. Opening discussions with Right to Life New South Wales, who are very good, very militant. There's two pro-life groups in Victoria. I'm in contact with Tasmania and about to go to the western states, as well.

[Peter] You not deterred by the outcome of some of these unsuccessful campaigns, certainly, in places like Victoria and Queensland? Clearly, you've got to have a little bit of resilience when it comes to this sort of stuff. And I think it's really ironic, actually, that most politicians, they get out there and they kiss babies, and that's part of their shtick. And here, we have a situation in a lot of states right now where this whole abortion bill has created so much division among not only politicians, but among people.

[Teeshan] Yeah, you're absolutely right it's ironic. It's also kind of disgusting that they say, on one hand, they're kissing babies to get votes, and the other hand, they're writing policy for their destruction. I think, sorry, what was your question?

[Peter] Basically, what do you think will happen in the lead up to the federal election around combining with pro-life groups?

[Teeshan] I think we can, I think the LNP will hold with the help of us. Our goal is not to help the LNP, but to get a pro-life government in. And they're definitely more pro-life than Labor at this point. We're definitely not deterred, as you said. If anything we're motivated to go harder. A lot of our people are joining political parties. Some people are like, "I'm going to study law". "I'm going into politics", "This is it. This has gone far enough." It's also in stead with world trends to a more life-centric way of thinking about unexpected or problematic pregnancy. Abortion is kind of a very 1970s mindset and I think we are seeing a move away from that, which is encouraging.

[Peter] I was going to ask you about the groundswell of support. I mean, give us an example of some of the support that you get from what you would consider to be average mom and dads. I mean, what sort of database have you got when it comes to supporters out there?

[Teeshan] Well, an interesting thing is, our financial support has increased by about 35%. We had people who had never given to us ever come out of the blue, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000. You know, it's like we're backing you. This is not okay. Abortion to birth - and that's really what the legislation is - abortion to birth is not okay. I had pro-choice people approach me and say, I'm pro-choice but this is pro-abortion and this is extreme. I don't agree with abortion past the first trimester. And so, there's a lot of people who came onboard like that and they're kind of, people are kind of a bit shocked by the brutality of it, and they should be. Very brutal.

[Peter] Tell me about the legislation that essentially happened in Victoria and Queensland. And the fact that ... You know I was gobsmacked when I actually did some research into this. So you can actually abort a child, a foetus, right up until birth in Victoria and Queensland on the grounds that they are socially-unacceptable to the parents. I mean, how do you? And they only need the support of two doctors to actually be able to do that. I mean, that does seem extraordinary.

[Teeshan] It does. So it's psychological, physical or social. And social was defined in the Queensland Law Reform Commission paper as either economic or relational. So those two things are very broad. So, basically, it means if you don't have enough money, you can go to a doctor. You're due next week and say, I want to abort this child. I don't have enough money. Now, that second doctor that you mentioned doesn't have to, there's no requirement for that second doctor to be impartial. It can be one abortionist to another, and there's no legal requirement if there is no second doctor. So we know law without a penalty is no law at all. People won't follow it.

[Peter] Well you know, Teeshan, it's a very emotive issue and, of course, there's a lot of people we saw recently where a person was actually fined in Queensland for their claims, making a statement about these particular laws where, you know, I mean, it's certainly an issue that's polarised the community. There's no doubt about that. Teeshan, thanks for joining us tonight.

[Teeshan] Thanks, Gleeson.