Call to arms over 27 babies left to die

West Australian politician Nick Goiran is pushing for the state parliament to investigate why 27 babies who were born alive after abortion procedures were left to die.

The Liberal MP tabled a petition in the Legislative Council calling for an inquiry into why these babies – six of whom survived abortions after 26 weeks of gestation – were not given the same care as any other premature baby.

It is through Goiran’s questions in parliament since 2011 that the Health Minister revealed that 27 babies in WA survived abortion between 1999 and 2016. The majority were late-term abortions – 15 were between 20-25 weeks and six were 26 weeks or later.

He says the Health Minister made it clear in parliament that no medical care had been offered to many of these babies. He says the law is quite clear that, once born, a baby is a WA citizen, whether accidental or not, and entitled to all the rights and privileges of any WA citizen.

“The law of Western Australia is actually OK – it’s just not being followed or implemented.” – Nick Goiran

“Health practitioners tell us that in Western Australia the protocol is that if the baby is 23 weeks or more, then they engage with all the resources that are available and the skills and so on. It’s a call to action at 23 weeks or more,” he tells Eternity.

“We know that there were at least six [late-term abortions] that were 26 weeks or more, so why were those six Western Australian babies given a lesser standard of care than other Western Australian babies at 26 weeks or more?”

Goiran, a Christian, wants to know why the Coroner has not investigated why these babies were left to die and why the Department of Child Protection was never notified about any of these cases.

“The law of Western Australia is actually OK – it’s just not being followed or implemented. It is contrary to law for these babies not to be provided with care and medical attention; it is contrary to law for these matters not to be reported to the Department of Child Protection and for the Coroner not to investigate,” he says.

“If someone wants to say they’re an ‘accidental Western Australian,’ so be it. I wouldn’t describe it that way but it doesn’t change the law.”

“This is a matter that ought to be investigated – these babies were born alive and neglected and left to die…” – Dwight Randall

Shocked and distressed by these figures, Goiran says he was “honoured” to table the petition containing 7000 signatures organised by the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life. The petition states: “We are distressed to learn that the Ombudsman has stated he has no jurisdiction to investigate these child deaths and that there is a difference of opinion between the Department of Health and the Coroner on whether these deaths are reportable. Worse still we understand that the Department of Child Protection was not notified in any of these cases when self-evidently these children must be at the apex of those at-risk in our State.”

The petition has been referred to the Standing Committee of the Environment and Public Affairs which has contacted the organiser, seeking a submission within 30 days on the purpose behind the petition.

“The point I will make is this is a matter that ought to be investigated – these babies were born alive and neglected and left to die, and every child born is entitled to care,” says Dwight Randall, president of the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life.

Randall accepts that some of the late-term abortions were probably cases of severe disability, but “quite a few were at a viable level had they not suffered through abortion; some of the disabilities were not incompatible with life, which makes it all the more tragic.”

“The bad news is that there’s been no transparency …” – Nick Goiran

Goiran says he has been trying to find out the reasons for the late-term abortions but has been thwarted at every turn. “A few years ago, I pursued this very vigorously with the then health minister …  [They] agreed to direct the panel that makes the decisions on late-term abortions, that they have to report to the health minister every year explaining … the conditions that the baby had that justified the abortion.

“This is very important because we know that historically there have been some for Down syndrome and dwarfism,” he says. “It was a great win for us to get this new accountability measure and there have been two of these annual reports.

“The bad news is that there’s been no transparency – those reports are hidden. I have asked repeatedly for them to be tabled in parliament and that has been refused. I have applied under the Freedom of Information Act for those reports to be released – the Department of Health has rejected the application. I have applied for a review of that decision – the review was also rejected. The reports remain unreleased, so I am now applying to the Freedom of Information Commissioner for an independent determination on that issue.”

“It’s a tragedy right before us.” – Nick Goiran

Goiran says that if the panel is confident that the conditions the babies had justified the termination,  there should be no reason why that can’t be explained to the public.

“I very much suspect that the reasons have been kept secret because it continues to be the case that they are allowing these late-term abortions for conditions that are compatible with life. And that is distressing if that is the case.”

Goiran, who has received minimal media coverage of his campaign, believes there is a political paralysis about the issue because it is connected with abortion, which is seen as a no-go area.

“It’s a tragedy right before us. If a Western Australian dies in any other tragic situation, or unexpected situation, there is always a call to arms, there are cries for an inquiry and rightly so … but in these cases no one wants to talk about it.”