Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton laid down some staggering accusations yesterday when he claimed that a number of women seeking asylum in Australia were fabricating rape allegations and abortion wishes to get into the country.
During a segment on Sky News last night, Dutton said women had been “trying it on”, criticising recent Medevac legislation for the supposed crisis. He said women requesting medical assistance for such issues were changing their minds upon their arrival to Australia and seeking a legal injunction to prevent their return to detention in Nauru.
The Home Affairs Minister then bragged that a number of Medevac cases had so far been rejected by the Immigration Minister, but then subsequently overruled by an independent medical panel.
“You could question whether people needed medical attention”, Dutton said.
“Some people are trying it on. Let’s be serious about this. There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru. They arrived in Australia and then decided they were not going to have an abortion. They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the federal court which injuncts us from sending them back.”
Dutton’s analysis of this situation is unimaginably parochial and truly concerning given his position of power. Such claims that women would “use” the trauma of rape and abortion merely for self-gain is abhorrent.
Abortion is a decision which for many, is overwhelmingly complex. For women who are religious, or have additional familial pressures, the decision to move ahead with such a procedure is even more conflicting.
Just because a woman seeks to have an abortion at one point, does not mean she will necessarily go ahead with it. Nor should she have to. The choice is her own, and if any women transferred to Australia from Nauru have changed their minds, it’s almost certainly not a calculated move, but a result of deep, emotional upheaval experienced.
For Peter Dutton–a man in charge of such sensitive policy– his complete lack of compassion and empathy is truly despicable.
Hardly surprising though, given his chequered history on such matters.
In 2016 a federal court judge determined Dutton had breached his duty of care to a woman who became pregnant as a result of rape. Withholding from bringing her to Australia for an abortion, he exposed her to significant medical and legal risks.
And let’s be clear: Medevac legislation has hardly led to an insurgence of questionable medical cases from Nauru. So far, a total of 30 people have requested assistance.
Asked if any of these 30 people evacuated to Australia were faking their illness, Dutton said: “I think you want to have a look at each of the cases.” He also implied that the medical officials determining these cases had “advocacy backgrounds” and were therefore blinded.
Dr Kerryn Phelps, former member for Wentworth who led the charge for Medevac to be passed earlier in the year, slammed Dutton’s claims during an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, saying they were “unconscionable”.
“It is outrageous that the Minister of Home Affairs should come out swinging on this law, and try and deny people the healthcare they need, on World Refugee Day,” she said.
“And to denigrate the motives and reputations of the doctors who are giving their time for a humanitarian cause is unconscionable.
“These doctors are acting out of compassion in the interests of human rights and the obligations of the medical profession – to provide healthcare where possible to people who need it. To denigrate their reputation in this way is just unforgivable.”
“It’s an international embarrassment.”