It was 1973
- Toni was three months pregnant, a fifth year medical
student and feeling sick. Abortion had been made legal in 1970
and so part of her obstetrics and gynaecology course meant students
had to assist with an abortion.
"My job was to sieve out the bottle
of blood and gore through a gauze swab. I didn't think much about
it until I saw what sieved out onto the gauze. It was a baby of
about eleven weeks. There was an arm with a little hand attached
and a leg with a little foot attached. I had to count everything
to make sure it was all there." She has never forgotten this
experience. The situation was very real: "I was the same
age as that girl on the table and at the same stage of pregnancy."
Turnbull lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She works in a general
practice, but her work has included time in psychiatric hospitals
and working for the Family Planning Association. Her husband,
Bob, works with the homeless people of Adelaide. They have five
children, ranging from 2 to 21.
uni days Toni has always asked questions about concerns or situations
she couldn't understand. Although she is labelled "an anti-abortion
pro-life activist", she says it is just part of her world
view. Gently spoken with a ready laugh, she is passionate about
the life values she believes in and yet without aggression. The
motivating force behind her care for people comes from her faith
experience - an unexpected conversion from agnosticism to a belief
that God loves her and has a task for her to do.
her husband spent two years working in New Guinea (now Papua New
Guinea). The issue of abortion versus child-rearing was inappropriate
there. It was a custom to give young children as presents to newly
married couples. This was considered an honour!
Australia, Toni began working in general practice. In the early
80's, she was surprised at the number of requests coming in for
abortions. One particular week, she remembers, three women came
to visit her. They were all over 35 and married. They had the
following reasons for abortion:
1) Wanted to go to the America's Cup - a baby
would have been a hindrance.
2) Wanted to travel around Europe.
3) Wanted to move to a more expensive house.
Toni couldn't understand their decisions.
"They wanted an abortion a bit like the removal of a mole."
Catholic Bishop Dom Helder from Brazil saying, "You don't
need to go to Central or South America to experience injustice."
At this time, Toni's questioning really began. She decided people
needed education, so she started speaking in schools on a range
of topics under the 'Life Issues' umbrella.
meeting people and learning of their experiences, Toni's views
have become stronger. During her five years at the Family Planning
Clinic, referrals for abortion were common. This period highlighted
her sense of need to know how to counsel women so they could make
the most informed choice - aware of supportive alternatives to
aborting their babies.
colleague had performed abortions for a public hospital for several
months. Months later, Toni found she had been in a psychiatric
hospital suffering deep depression. When asked what happened,
her friend said: "I knew in my head that abortion was right.
I was doing it for the women. But in my heart I felt it was wrong.
In every abortion I performed I found I was reliving my own abortion
I had had years earlier." Through this trauma, Toni's friend
lost her job, her marriage broke up and she lost custody of her
children. Toni no longer refers anyone for abortion, but works
through the issues with those patients who are willing.
works with families and longs for everyone to understand and experience
a vital quality of life. She's become a spokesperson on a range
of life issues, appearing on radio, television and in the press.
Toni has organised demonstrations, marches and vigils - recently
campaigning against the growing local demand for voluntary euthanasia.
She plans an end of year vigil to commemorate the 5000 babies
aborted in Adelaide last year.
Libby Boxer, Australia
Toni gave her opinions to Global
Express in an interview with Jean Brown:
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
The more sex, the more STDs. Some can be
treated, some can affect or kill a baby if you're pregnant. For
some there is no treatment and it will eventually kill you. Prevention
is the only solution. Faithfulness in marriage, abstinence outside
Because of the failure rate of condoms to
stop sexually transmitted diseases, it is no longer referred to
as 'safe sex' but as 'safer sex'!
Sex just becomes another commodity. There
could be 'two for the price of one' offers. More STDs, more unwanted
pregnancies, more abortions, more pain.
Sex before marriage, what does it prove?
Not much! If you want to know if a relationship
is right for you, start out with friendship. In marriage, the
sexual relationship gets richer over time, the deeper the friendship
and commitment. Sex first doesn't prove a thing about real compatibility.
I don't prescribe it anymore. It interrupts
the development of a life. And there are some damaging side-effects.
What birth control is there that is safe
Statistics in the USA show that the divorce
rates among couples who practice natural family planning are only
1% compared to the national average of almost 50%. Natural family
planning means living in tune with your body and nature. It requires
mutual respect and communication between partners and so enhances
the relationship, preventing exploitation and abuse. It is also
free and without health risks. Check it out.
We're on Earth to support each other. In
the first four months of pregnancy women are most hormonally
disturbed and so, most vulnerable. This is often a time of depression
and loss of confidence. This is when abortions are usually decided
on, so this is a time for maximum support from husbands and family members.
Side effects of abortion, are there any?
Studies show that the majority of women suffer
some side effect, sometimes years after the operation. Possible
side effects include haemorrhaging, infection, blocked tubes,
sterility, incompetent cervix (with repeated abortions), breast
cancer, insomnia, nightmares, anorexia, loss of sexual interest,
promiscuity, insecurity, difficulty in relationships, helplessness,
depression and subsequent miscarriages.
When does life start?
Some believe that life starts 2-3 months after
the baby is born, when it first responds to a smile; or at birth
when the nose first hits the air; or when viability occurs (when
the baby can live outside of its mother, around 20 weeks); or
when the baby is identifiably fully formed around 11 weeks; or
when the heart starts beating at 23 days; or when the fertilised
egg implants in the uterus at 7 days; or right at the start when
the sperm fuses with the ovum forming a complete cell with all
the genetic information required for that new person. Then all
that is needed is nutrition for growth. Yes, that's when life
gives power to the doctors and relatives and
takes it from the patient. There is really no such thing as a
Being your own therapist
Everyone has an inner voice. As a doctor,
if someone has problems, I get them to ventilate them, verbalise
them, then go and sit still, alone and in silence, and
listen to their inner voice, writing down the thoughts that come
to them. There is a source of truth within that is our own personal
Moods and depression
It's a question of focus. The more you focus
only on yourself, the more hopeless you feel. This issue carries
on through life. Change your focus.
is a place to learn to get along with people
with whom you may not be naturally compatible. A safe place to
cry, grow and share.