WHEN Melbourne sonographer Jane (not her real name) told the young Afghani Muslim bride that she was expecting a girl, she felt she had just handed out a death sentence.
“It was the worse scan in my 15 years in the profession,” she told me.
“My patient came in recently for a routine 20-week obstetric foetal wellbeing scan. She asked the gender of the baby. In the room were family members.
“I said the baby looked healthy and most likely a girl. The grandmother spoke aggressively in another language and left the room slamming the door, followed by the uncle and a little boy.
“The mother was crying hysterically. You would have thought I had just told her that her baby had died.
“I thought the little boy was theirs and that they would be happy for a girl. But the father, who was older, told me his firstborn was also a girl – the boy was his nephew.
“I have no doubt about the intentions of the father. The mother may have wanted to keep that child but there was little doubt in my mind she would be aborted.”
Jane went home and cried. She spent days agonising, even wondering if she should leave her profession.
As a result of gender requests, which she believes can lead to abortion, she is increasingly reluctant to reveal a child’s sex. Many colleagues feel the same, not wanting to be complicit.
“Things have changed,” she says. “This used to be a joyful job, showing pretty pictures to couples happy with the baby. Now there is more insistence on revealing the sex early and you fear what they will do with the information.”
She knows many cases where the initial predictions have been found wrong with later screening.
“It’s not a diagnosis, more a prediction. There are conditions that can mask the sex, such as un-descended testes. I’m sure babies are being terminated based on wrong information.”
Jane’s account follows a Sunday Herald Sun report that a baby girl was aborted in Melbourne at 19 weeks because her parents wanted a son. Melbourne doctor Mark Hobart refused to refer them for a termination. It has since emerged that Dr Hobart is pro-life. This does not change the nature of the request. Many doctors who have no issue with abortion would baulk.
“The parents were upfront and told me that was the reason for the abortion,” Dr Hobart said. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was the husband who did all the talking – he was so insistent.”
A spokesman for Federal Health Minister, Tania Plibersek, reduced this act of discrimination to a “clinical matter”. Australia is a signatory to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, agreeing to do all it can to achieve its objectives, including those on gender equality, equity and empowerment of women.
For example, governments are urged to take the necessary measures to prevent infanticide, ante-natal sex selection and trafficking in girl children. What’s the point of signing if a baby girl can be eliminated because her parents wanted a son?
Ms Plibersek would, I’m sure, oppose female foeticide and infanticide, which results in about 200 million fewer girls in the world a year according to the UN.
In her recent book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, Mara Hvistendahl writes: “They were selected out of existence.”
It appears easier to condemn sex bias practices when they happen far away, but not at home.
The Medical Board said it would not pursue the case because terminations are allowed up to 24 weeks. Including for being female.
The governing body of our medical profession has simply wiped its hands of a harmful discriminatory practice condemned around the world. And if the mother was under pressure not to give birth to a girl, she also is a victim.
While no one knows the extent of the practice in Australia – surely one case is too many – and while not all cases will be driven culturally or apply only to girls, perhaps Jane’s story will help others in the field come forward with their experiences.
Rather than provide and underwrite sex-selective abortion, we should be signalling strong opposition to ante-natal sex selection as part of our broader goals to eliminate gender inequality and bias.
The Medical Board should investigate. Eliminating babies of the “wrong” sex is not about health, therapy or healing. It is about reinforcing prejudice. And it can never be seen as just a clinical matter.
WHEN fashion publishers feel they have to use photo-shop to ‘‘fatten up’’ models in a major fashion event before they can publish their images, you know there’s a problem.
Usually when fashion and beauty publications employ digital enhancement it’s for the opposite reason: to slim down the model or celebrity and hide ‘‘flaws’’.
But this week saw an uncommon use of re-touching, with some fashion writers so disturbed at the runway display of protruding bones at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Sydney, they felt compelled to add the appearance of actual flesh.
Editor of fashion blog Style Melbourne, Sarah Willcocks, told The Australian Women’s Weekly she had to smooth out one model’s shoulder bones for fear of ‘‘glamourising’’ her skinny frame.
While normally opposed to airbrushing, Ms Willcocks said one image from the Maticevski show was too shocking to leave untouched. She didn’t want to promote the ‘‘unhealthy-looking’’ model.
‘‘I don’t want my readers thinking bones are glamorous or beautiful,’’ Ms Willcocks said.
An industry insider, who asked not to be named, was also concerned about the health of the models.
‘‘One in particular looked so weak I don’t know how she could even walk,’’ she told me. ‘‘It was inhumane that people could look at her and not see she was sick. I thought Australia might have better standards than Paris, and prefer girls who look naturally healthy. Some in the industry seem to care more about how the clothes look than if she still has a pulse.’’
Designer Alex Perry was singled out for his choice of models. He claimed he ran out of time to find healthier-sized girls.
Former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements says for most designers and casting agents, there’s no such thing as too thin. Fashion Week model Ruby Jean Wilson, for example, has a waist circumference of an average seven-year-old. Stylist Naomi Smith told Clements: ‘‘Someone will tell them very quickly if they put on weight. But often no one will mention if they’ve lost too much.’’
But the current editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia, Edwina McCann, almost seems to let them off the hook. ‘‘Anyone who has witnessed a stress-out, pre-occupied, angstridden designer in the days before they show their collection would understand why they may not be focused on the issue of body-image during that time,’’ she told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.
Well, maybe they should give it a bit more thought, if they really care about the health of their models.
In 2010, David Jones model Jessica Gomes said it was common for models to engage in ‘‘. . . endless nights of cocaine, smoking, drinking coffee, doing a juice cleanse . . . how dare they tell young girls they have to lose weight and go on a thousand calorie a day diet? It’s just ridiculous’’.
A University of WisconsinMadison study of 15,000 people found ‘‘exposure to media depicting ultra-thin actresses and models significantly increased women’s concerns about their bodies, including how dissatisfied they felt and their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviours’’.
In Australia, eating disorders have doubled in the past five years, with one in three girls now engaging in risky behaviour, such as starving themselves, vomiting or abusing medication. The lack of diversity in women’s bodies in Fashion Week can contribute to this.
Every year noises are made about reforming the industry, but apart from the occasional token gesture, thin continues to be in.
‘‘If ever we needed evidence of the fashion industry’s blatant contempt towards young women, this would be it,’’ says BodyMatters Australasia’s Lydia Turner. ‘‘For fashion designers to demand girls be skeletal and treat their health — and in some cases, their lives — as irrelevant, is dangerous. What message does it send when the way the dress hangs matters more than the lives of girls?’
It’s time models were seen as more than human coat hangers.
REALITY weight-loss show The Biggest Loser claims to be all about health – leading a new “social movement” against the “obesity crisis”.
But many authorities – and those suffering from disordered eating – say it actually contributes to bad health.
Parading and humiliating obese people, dangerously rapid weight loss, severe calorie restriction, pre weigh-in dehydration and punishing exercise do not develop healthy patterns for long-term health.
Whenever the series returns, Melbourne woman Jodi, 24, (who asked her surname not be used) avoids TV.
Seeing the show, or even ads for it, can trigger harmful eating patterns.
As a recovering binge and restrict eater, and accredited exercise scientist, Jodi says just hearing about TBL makes her feel “sad, pathetic, not good enough”.
“My logical self knows that I’m not overweight or obese, but my eating disorder tells me I am,” Jodi says.
“Contestants receive so much praise and recognition for their weight loss, which contributes to me linking my self-worth with my weight.
“It makes me aware that other people notice my weight and might judge me on it.
This makes it harder for Jodi to trust her treatment team, which encourages her to take small steps, eat mindfully and exercise in a healthy way.
Hearing trainers screaming at contestants that they are just weak undermines professional advice.
“I’m concerned as this is being passed onto the fitness industry, where trainers now think it’s OK to train clients at those same intensities.”
The show can also scare people off exercise. Researchers in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation found that watching a short video of The Biggest Loser fuelled negative attitudes toward exercise.
“People are screaming and crying and throwing up, and if you’re not a regular exerciser you might think this is what exercise is – that it’s this horrible experience where you have to push yourself to the limits, which is completely wrong,” says Tanya Berry, Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity Promotion.
Authorities say that because the only measure of success is scales, the show is purely about weight-loss not about overall health. The fact that contestants can’t even cover their bodies in a lightweight top during the weigh-in shows TBL is about sadistic voyeurism – and fuelling a $414 million weight-loss industry.
Eating disorder professionals say the show makes their work harder, as clients believe what they see on the show is realistic in daily life. Sarah McMahon, co-director of BodyMatters Australasia, says there is no evidence to support long-term sustained weight loss and behavioural change in most contestants.
“These clients are typically young and have poor media literacy and limited education about exercise and physiology,” she says.
“It makes a humiliating public spectacle of them under the guise of ‘self- improvement’. They will actively participate in their own persecution because the dream of being thin has been sold so convincingly”.
Dr Rick Kausman, Director of The Butterfly Foundation and author of best-selling If Not Dieting, Then What?’, says if you wanted to make a show that helped people be healthy, you’d do the opposite of TBL.
“Instead of shaming you would use compassion.
Research shows self-compassion helps us take care of ourselves much better than self-criticism.
Instead of a focus on weight, small meaningful changes in behaviour are much more likely to be sustained.”
“Rather than inspire people to make change, the show is more likely to make people mentally and physically unhealthy.
“Stigma around weight acts as a barrier for people seeking health care.
“Studies shown that patients are less likely to see their doctor for regular check-ups for fear of being told off about their weight.” he says.
“This is a disaster for preventative health”.
If we truly cared about helping people be healthy, we’d take this manipulative and highly emotional propaganda off-air immediately.
WHEN Lauren Burns listened to the Prime Minister’s national apology to those who suffered forcible adoption, she wanted to ask: what about me? It wasn’t that the 29-year-old Melbourne woman didn’t find the speech moving. She believes the mothers and children so cruelly separated deserved the apology.
But she, and so many like her, felt left out. Lauren is one of thousands of children (exact figures are not known — in the beginning records weren’t kept) born as the result of donor sperm or eggs, who believe they too have been denied an opportunity to know their biological parents.
It was these words which most affected her: ‘‘To each of you who were . . . denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin, we say sorry. We acknowledge that many of you still experience a constant struggle with identity, uncertainty and loss and feel a persistent tension between loyalty to one family and yearning for another.’’
‘‘I found it incredible that the Government was apologising to adopted people for the very things that are still happening via donor conception and surrogacy,’’ Lauren says. ‘‘It was frustrating that almost nobody except us could see that by simply inserting ‘donor conception’ for ‘adoption’, the PM could have been speaking to us. She promised no generation of Australians would suffer the same pain and trauma they did. But it’s not true.’’
Many donor-conceived children feel they are treated as inferior citizens, especially when secrets continue to be legally protected. There are no uniform regulations in Australia. In Victoria you’re guaranteed access to your donor’s identity only if you were born after 1998. Those born from 1988 to 1998 get access only if the donor consents. The rest have little hope. All they can do is put their names on a voluntary register and hope their donor does too.
Melbourne father Ross, 35, (surname withheld by request) describes an ‘‘enduring yearning’’ to know his genetic father.
‘‘I know how tall he was, his eye and hair colour, complexion and blood type. A pretty lousy list when you consider what a father has the potential to be. But at the moment, it’s all I have,’’ he says.
Some think that’s enough. Dr Doug Keeping of the Queensland Fertility Group says: ‘‘The code of secrecy has worked well for 25 years. Why spoil it for fairly theoretical reasons?’’
Donor offspring don’t think their reasons for wanting to know their biological parents are theoretical.
Lauren says: ‘‘There is a commonly held belief that since we were so wanted by our social parents, our biological kinship links shouldn’t matter. But there is still a loss experienced from not knowing biological family and not being able to trace where your looks, personality or interests come from.’’
Ross describes the battle of the donor conception community against the profitable reproductive technology industry as being like an ‘‘anchovy against a whale’’.
Lauren says she knows of a donor-conceived man who felt so much like a product he had a bar code tattooed on the back of his neck. And how is someone conceived from an egg donated in Eastern Europe, sperm donated in the US and born to an Indian surrogate mother supposed to find all the people involved in creating them?
Lauren found her father three years ago after a five year search. Holders of her records refused to hand them over because of legal advice. With the intervention of the then Victorian Governor, David de Kretser, (her mother’s treating doctor), her donor was found. While Lauren still has time to develop the relationship, a friend had merely four weeks.
Lauren and other donor-conceived offspring are grieving the loss of Melbourne social worker Narelle Grech, who died this week of cancer, aged 30. An advocate for retrospective rights to information about their biological identity, she was denied information about her biological father, Ray Tonna, for whom she searched for 15 years. But because she was dying, former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu intervened and her father was found. Tonna and son Zac found and lost a daughter and sister in the space of a month.
The co-ordinator of the Donor Conception Support Group, Caroline Lorbach, says she is sad and angry the system made Grech fight for information which should have been hers.
The group is waiting for Victoria’s response to the Parliamentary Law Reform Committee 2012 report’s recommendation that all donor-conceived people know the name of their donor, no matter when they were born.
‘‘I hope the Government decides it needs to open up all the records so that no one else has to go through what Narelle did,’’ Lorbach says. If we acknowledge the pain of those forcibly removed from parents, then the pain of these children must be acknowledged also.
Published in the Sunday Herald Sun March 31, 2013
Call for Victorian Government to ensure equality for donor conceived children: Change petition
Melbourne woman Myf Cummerford has created a Change petition calling on the Victorian Government to protect the interests of donor conceived children.
“The welfare and interests of persons born or to be born as a result of treatment procedures are paramount”.
This is the first guiding principle of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 the legislation governing ART practices (including Donor Conception) in Victoria.
Donor conception is conception using donated gametes (sperms and eggs) or embryos.
There are likely several thousands of donor-conceived people who were conceived in Victoria prior to 1988, and more than 5500 have been born since then. Many of these people will be unaware that they are donor-conceived.
• People who were conceived from gametes donated in Victoria after 1998 are entitled under legislation to obtain identifying information about their donors when they reach adulthood.
• People conceived from gametes donated between 1988 and 1997 can only access identifying information about their donors with the donor’s consent.
• However, people conceived from gametes donated prior to 1988 have no legislated right to obtain identifying information.
This means that if you are donor conceived, your ability to access vital information about your genetic parentage and identity entirely depends on the date the gametes used to conceive you were donated. This has created a complex and confusing situation of differing rights and abilities with many serious implications. Read full petition wording here
IT WAS International Women’s Day last Friday. We were supposed to celebrate but I struggled to get into party mood.
The 101st anniversary of the global event acknowledged the economic, political and social achievements of women. But the relentless onslaught of harms and injuries to women and girls continues and I wonder, has anything really changed?
Violence against women is a scourge on the planet. Millions of women and girls trafficked into sexual slavery, female genital mutilation, honour killings, dowry deaths, forced marriage, female foeticide and infanticide.
According to the UN, about 200 million girls in the world today are missing. India and China are believed to eliminate more baby girls than the number of girls born in the US each year.
Women and girls are ground down in so many parts of the world. They are at risk of violence at every stage of their lives: from conception to old age. That was vividly illustrated for me during a visit to a shelter for women and girls in Hyderabad, India. On the bottom level were the abandoned baby girls, many with broken limbs from being thrown on to garbage heaps. On the second were the abandoned pregnant girls and women. And on top were the discarded widows.
Every day some new atrocity against women and girls is reported. A 15-year-old girl in the Maldives was sentenced to 100 lashes. Why? Because she had pre-marital sex. Actually she was raped by her stepfather, who killed the resulting baby.
And of course the death by gang rape of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey in New Delhi. Rape is the fastest-growing crime in India. Delhi’s police commissioner compared women being raped to men being pickpocketed.
The conviction rate for rapes in India in 2011 was just 26.4 per cent. That seems bad, doesn’t it? Compare it with 5.7 per cent of convictions in England and Wales. And in the US, 97 per cent of rapists will get off scot free.
Reeva Steenkamp’s death brought to light that one South African is woman killed every six hours by her partner.
In Australia, violence against women costs the taxpayer an estimated $13.6 billion. Yet the mistreatment of women is routinely used in entertainment, fashion and advertising, even treated as a laugh. At the Oscars, host Seth MacFarlane’s sang We saw your boobs, a song about all the women in the audience whose breasts he had seen on screen.
MacFarlane seemed to miss the rapes and bashings, but at least he got to see naked breasts.
Men’s T-shirts collapse rape into a punch line, with slogans like: “It’s not rape if you yell surprise” and “Relax it’s just sex”, depicting the bound body of a naked woman spattered in blood, sold in youth surf stores. Online retailer Amazon had shirts printed with “Keep calm and rape a lot”. Another in the same line says, “Keep calm and hit her”.
Zoo magazine, read by 28,000 boys aged 14-17 a month, features two halves of a woman and invites readers to describe what they’d like to do to the disembodied half they prefer. Zoo is sold in supermarkets.
Facebook promotes violence against women: “Cleaning foundation off your sword after a hard day of hunting sluts, Dragging sluts into your room unconscious in a sack, You know she’s playing hard to get when she takes out a restraining order, I like my women how I like my Scotch, 10 years old and locked in my basement” are some examples.
“Rape is such a strong word, I prefer struggle snuggle” was shared widely through social media not long ago.
Sexual assault worker Alison Grundy says: “If we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualised and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse.”
But there are signs of hope. Women and girls are pushing back and demanding change. We saw it in the streets of India. We saw it in the response to the shooting in Pakistan of Malala Yuousafzai, who was shot because she wanted to go to school.
One Billion Rising (representing the number of female victims of violence) events have been held around the world. In Melbourne last month survivors of sexual assault launched a new book of their stories “We will not go quietly”, speaking out against sexual violence.
International Women’s Day should be an opportunity not to shy away from the difficult ugly truths, or be overwhelmed and depressed, but to name and shame them, harness our anger and be part of the solution.
ON Bookworld’s website, you can find My first cupcake decorating book, Children’s book of art and Children’s book of mythical beasts. But until recently, other beasts lurked among the titles hosted by the online book seller, the rebranded version of Borders.
Hundreds of titles appeared under the heading, Incest, titles far too explicit, not to mention disturbing, to be mentioned here.
Incest is a criminal act of abuse against children. About one-in-four is a victim of child sexual abuse. Yet companies are profiting from selling incest-themed fiction, supporting the views of abusers or potential abusers that it is acceptable to have sex with (i.e. rape) children.
Bookworld says it is working on solutions to monitor content more closely.
‘‘We agree with you that these titles should not be on sale and are very grateful that we have been made aware of them so that we can remove them from the site and ensure none like them will be available on Bookworld in the future,’’ said Bookworld’s Kim Noble.
While their prompt response is welcome, didn’t one staffer notice the titles and ask questions? And while Bookworld says it didn’t market the titles, surely carrying them at all achieves the same thing?
Why no audit checks of the data feeds they were channeling through their site? Why effectively traffick contraband materials without checking they weren’t breaching Australian laws?
It is just the latest example of the mainstreaming of child sexual assault material.
The Federal Government has established a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. There are various other state and internal inquiries. Rightly so. The issue is a blight on our nation and everything must be done to stop it. But while millions are spent on these inquiries, we live in a culture which sends messages that child abuse is sexy. There’s no inquiry into the permission-giving drivers which encourage and enable the sexual abuse of children.
Like teen-themed sex toys which eroticised sex with girls advertised through Condom Kingdom; or a Melbourne sex store advertising a ‘‘back to school’’ sale complete with school uniforms, blackboards and apples for the teacher.
Amazon also lists incest titles. Last year, a global campaign forced a recall of A paedophile’s guide to love and pleasure.
Then there’s porn in the corner store. Pictures include one of a girl (allegedly over 18 but posed as a child, which is illegal) on a bed in bobby sox and pigtails, holding a hand puppet.
For years, child development advocates have called for action, sending multiple copies of illegal titles to the Classification Board. Board chief Donald McDonald has written hundreds of ‘‘please explain’’ letters to porn distributors but none bother replying. The board’s annual reports bear that out, documenting ‘‘no reply received’’.
The system is broken. Jeff Sparrow’s new book, Money Shot, reveals the contempt porn profiteers have for the system. Those in the industry say the risks of getting caught aren’t that great. Sparrow writes: ‘‘The adult industry of Australia was almost entirely outside the legal system . . . the remote possibility of a fine was like the spectre of shoplifting, an annoyance that just went with the trade.’’
Why haven’t state and federal attorneys-general, who are responsible for classifications, done anything to intervene?
Melbourne author Jayneen Saunders wrote Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept about helping children stay safe from child sexual abuse, but she has struggled to get a publisher and has been prevented from reading from the book at public places such as libraries, because of the nature of the content.
Yet, mainstream companies can profit from trading in products encouraging child sexual assault.
All these permission-giving examples undermine child protection. The idea it is acceptable to fantasise about children is given the tick by those who profit from trading in such fantasies.
If we are serious about addressing child sexual assault, when are governments going to address the culture which fuels and feeds it?
Despite the fact the system is stuffed, the Australian Law Reform Commission has endorsed selfregulation.
There are endless complaints about all the above and more, but the system doesn’t change.
I’ll vote for whoever decides to take this seriously.
After writing the multi-million best-selling Raising Boys in 2003, psychologist Steve Biddulph thought his life work was done.
But the parenting guru and father of two kept hearing sad stories of friend’s daughters and coming into contact with parents in despair about how unhappy their girls were. They were plagued by eating disorders, self-harm, and depression.
“When I was writing on boys, girls were doing fine,” says Biddulph. “Then about five years ago that started to change. We began noticing a sudden and marked plunge in girls’ mental health.
“The average girl, every girl, was stressed and depressed in a way we hadn’t seen before. Nearly one in five has a serious mental health issue during her growing up years. You can’t ignore that”.
So he didn’t, writing a guidebook - Raising Girls: From babyhood to womanhood – helping your daughter to grow up wise, warm and strong (Finch Publishing) – which shot to no.2 on UK Amazon’s charts this week (until it was knocked off by a diet book recommended by Posh Spice).
Biddulph argues that girls have to be proactively launched into healthy womanhood.
“We haven’t loved girls well enough, understood them deeply enough, or stood alongside them to face the hyenas of this world that wanted to tear them down,” he says.
Biddulph gives parents a map for how to build strength and connectedness through the five stages of girlhood: being secure, learning to explore, relating to other people, finding your soul, and taking charge of your life.
What surprised him most in the writing of the book, he tells me, was the way the world comes at them.
“It reminds me of those images of the tsunami, all that junk surging into the streets and houses. That’s what our media is like now – flooding junk into children’s heads – that your looks are all that matter, that sex is just something you trade, that you can’t be loved for yourself,” he says.
“Girls are affected by that. Everyone has heard their daughter saying ‘I hate my body, ‘I hate my life’.
“Girls weren’t born hating their own bodies. They weren’t born hating life. Something was happening in the culture that was poisoning girls’ spirits”.
Biddulph says girls have lost four years of childhood peace and development, forced out of childhood before they’ve completed or fully enjoyed it.
He identifies four prime harms to girls – sexualisation, body image, alcohol abuse, and bullying.
“Being evaluated in terms of how you look, how you please others, how you are seen as a ‘product’ has taken girls back fifty years,” Biddulph says.
“Girls are in enormous pain and confusion. They are filling up the mental health clinics, the police stations and emergency rooms, the alcohol and drug treatment programs in numbers never seen before.
“Girlhood dramas should be dramas of learning and growing, not being battered and damaged”.
I ask him what he thinks is the best thing parents can do to help raise strong, resilient daughters (I have a vested interest in the answer, with three daughters of my own).
“Once you have a clear idea of the stages, it’s all about giving it the time, he says.
“Hurry is the enemy of love, because we start to not connect and our kids feel unimportant. That feeling is very common. We need to recognise parenthood is another full time activity.
“Not just to manage our children, but to actually talk them through their life’s struggles, and actively teach and encourage them. If your daughter is close to you, she will know how to be close to others.”
Girls need to be nourished physically, spiritually and emotionally, to help build resilience and be able to navigate their way through a tough world.
Biddulph says: “A girl who knows her own soul may be a gentle girl but with an iron in her that is not easily manipulated by careless boys or false friends. She will be loyal, tough, and protective of those around her. And of herself.”
Regulatory bodies have failed to help parents raise happy kids. “We need to stop marketing aimed at kids. We need to control the alcohol, junk food, fashion, and porn industries so that they don’t target children. It’s unethical,” he says.
“It’s time to stop the trashing of girlhood, equip parents to deal with the modern world and get the media off the backs of our daughters.”
Despite the extent of the problem, Biddulph remains a man of hope. He is encouraged by the growing worldwide movement to free our girls.
“There’s a great movement rising up all over the world to improve things for girls. People everywhere are waking up to the exploitation of our girls and taking action to address it.”
I DON’T want to discuss the personal IVF journey of Tony Abbott’s staffer Peta Credlin. Others can examine the politics of the Opposition Leader’s foray into the issue this past week. But there is a new opportunity to talk about IVF. It is difficult to criticise a procedure seen as ‘‘life-giving’’, and tempting to overlook the human costs.
The Opposition Leader says he supports IVF because he is ‘‘pro family’’. But we need to face the reality that despite IVF industry publicity, with photos of smiling babies set to pastel, most couples undergoing the procedure will never see a live baby.
In 2010, there were 61,774 assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment cycles performed in Australia and NZ. Of these, a mere 18.1 per cent resulted in a live baby.
There is a higher risk of miscarriage, terminations for foetal abnormality, stillbirth, a 2.5 times higher rate of death, a high risk of caesarean and pre-term birth, (33 per cent in IVF babies, 7.9 per cent in non-IVF babies) and low birth weight (26.4 per cent, 6.8 per cent in non-IVF babies).
IVF babies have more health problems. A large Ontario study found a 58 per cent greater risk of defects in IVF infants.
There’s an increased risk of heart defects (2.1 times), cleft lip/palate (2.4 times) and anorectal atresia (3.7 times). Gastrointestinal problems are nine times higher in IVF babies. A Switzerland study has found abnormalities in the blood vessels of 12-yearolds born through IVF.
There are ethical concerns about the thousands of stockpiled frozen embryos — about 40,000 in Victoria. Most are destroyed (20,000 discarded in Victoria in 10 years) and many are used in experiments. Then there is the cost. Medicare underwrote $217.4 million in costs from July 2011 to June 2012.
The cost of an IVF baby to women aged 30-33 years is $27,000, and for women 42-45 it is $131,000.
Egg extraction involves weeks of psychological and medical testing, followed by hormone injections. A long needle is used to pierce the wall of the vagina, access the ovaries and remove the eggs. The aim is to get as many eggs as possible. I know women who have had more than 20 eggs extracted.
Side-effects of the hormones include hot flushes, emotional turmoil, bloating, visual changes, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and multiple pregnancy. Ninety-two IVF cycles in 2010 resulted in one or more of the foetuses being aborted.
An estimated 10 per cent of women develop hyperstimulation syndrome, which can be fatal. There were 206 cases in 2010.
Researchers from the Netherlands have found that women having ovarian stimulation have a twice as high a risk of ovarian malignancies.
Given the lack of adequate safety data, how can women exercise informed consent?
Marketed as the only option, women are often put on the IVF treadmill before others are explored. I know women referred to IVF in their late 20s who, after abandoning the program, went on to have children naturally.
Of course many couples would adopt if it wasn’t so costly (up to $50,000 per child) and time-consuming. Australia has been accused of having an anti-adoption ethos, with the lowest adoption rate in the developing world.
In 2011-12, there were 333 adoptions in Australia (149 from overseas) — the lowest on record.
Yes, there is a strong desire for a baby. But research on women’s experiences of ART shows many feel physically, emotionally and financially drained, and suffer anxiety, depression and relationship problems.
Women have a right to realistic expectations about outcomes and risks. Some women say they were given hope but not enough information. We welcome every baby born but this huge global enterprise has not cured infertility.
While it may have brought joy to some women with the birth of a baby, it has come with significant physical and emotional suffering for many more.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.