The arrival of a baby girl born to a 62-year-old woman and 78-year-old man in a Melbourne hospital has sparked a nationwide debate, with the head of the Australian Medical Association labelling it “madness”. At 62, a Tasmanian woman became Australia’s oldest first time mum, taking over from a woman who gave birth at age 60 in 2010. Australian IVF pioneer Gab Kovacs from Monash University has labelled the procedure irresponsible, while doctors have warned about the serious health risks. Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said the couple’s decision to have a child at their advanced age was “selfish” and wrong. “Madness. Women are not designed to have kids in 60s,” Dr Gannon tweeted.
The woman gave birth at 34 weeks via a caesarean at Frances Perry Private Hospital on August 1. The hospital said mother and baby were recuperating and has requested privacy for the family. Risks associated with pregnancy can increase significantly after a woman reaches her 40s. Those risks include high blood pressure, birth complications and compromised foetal development. “A pregnancy at the age of 62 is a very risky business indeed, ” said Professor Peter Illingworth from IVF Australia. Specialists at IVF Australia generally won’t help a woman have a baby beyond the age of natural menopause, which is 51, because of the health risks to the mother. However they would not rule it out completely.
“We would take each case on a case-by-case basis and refer it to our ethics committee. They would be concerned about the health of the mother and the welfare of the child afterwards.” It’s believed the Tasmanian woman had undergone several years of failed IVF procedures and was implanted with a fertilised donor embryo at a facility overseas. Dr Bernadette Richards, an expert in medical law and bioethics from the University of Adelaide, says what the couple has done is not illegal. But just because medical intervention enables a 62-year-old woman to become pregnant doesn’t mean it should be allowed if it isn’t in the best interest of the child, with many asking how old is too old to have a child.
“The driving principal of our laws is always the best interest of the child, so I guess people would challenge what she’s done upon the grounds it may not arguably be in the best interests in the child to have parents of that age,” said Dr Richards. There are now calls for clearer guidelines when it comes to providing fertility treatment to older parents, with things like life expectancy to be considered. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has joined the Australian Medical Association and IVF pioneer Gab Kovacs, in questioning the decision of the Tasmanian couple to have a baby using a fertilised donor embryo obtained overseas. ACL spokesperson Wendy Francis said the procedure was ethically troubling with the interests of the child not considered.
“The ACL is concerned about IVF that involves the donation or sale of eggs or embryos involving a third party because it denies the child the right, wherever possible, to be loved and raised by their biological mum and dad,”Ms Francis said. “We agree with the comments reported from Dr Bernadette Richards, an expert in medical law and bioethics from the University of Adelaide, that the driving principle of our laws must always be the best interest of the child. “The ACL shares the medical profession’s concerns with using donated eggs or embryos because it clearly is not in the best interest of the child. “Whether it be using donated embryos or a surrogate mother, the practice objectifies children and denies them their biological heritage.”
Ms Francis said the rights of the child issues highlighted in this case also applied to the debate about changing the definition of marriage. “So-called marriage equality confers a right to found and form a family – a right which cannot be realised for couples of the same gender without Assisted Reproductive Technologies that are currently prohibited in Australia. “Sadly, if marriage is redefined in Australia, same-sex marriage involving two men will, by its very nature and design, mean children will be severed from their biological mother through commercial surrogacy. “Sperm donation for lesbians also denies children the love of their father.
“Children risk missing out on forming important relationships with those who are the source of their biological origins,” Ms Francis said. “We must ask ourselves what kind of impact using donor embryos, eggs or surrogates might have on a child’s identity, and if the desire to have a child, no matter the cost, is really more important than the needs of the child involved.”
CATHEDRAL DEANS EXPRESS GRIEF OVER CLERGY-LED ABUSE
The deans of Australia’s cathedrals have expressed grief at hurt and trauma caused by clergy and church workers after hearing reports about the country’s Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the newly established Royal Commission into the Child Protection and Youth Detention Systems of the Northern Territory. In a statement, issued at the end of their annual gathering, the deans strongly condemned any form of abuse. The statement said that the deans had “reported on safeguarding measures in their own cathedrals, affirmed the importance of public acknowledgement and repentance for past wrongs, and the need for transparency and openness of conversation to enable a process of healing and the prevention of future abuse.
“Our national Church needs to do more and move quickly on issues of redress for victims, recognising that we are one Body of Christ and therefore together are responsible,” the Dean of Darwin, the Very Rev Keith Joseph, said. “We give thanks for the work of the national Royal Commission and commend the newly appointed Royal Commission looking into issues in the Northern Territory.” During the meeting, the deans discussed a range of issues, including church in cathedral congregations. “It was a joy to hear how many of our cathedrals are experiencing growth in their ministry of equipping people to hear and follow the call of Christ,” the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Rev Dr Andreas Loewe, said.
“In our discussions we reflected on what it means to belong together as a family of believers, and how we can help bring together local congregations and visitors. One of the privileges of being a cathedral is to be a home church both for our diocesan family, and to welcome visitors to share in the ministry of daily prayer.” The conference also reflected on the capacity of cathedrals to lead social change; and on the cost of doing so. “Anglican cathedrals were leaders in the prevention of the deportation of almost 300 asylum seekers,” the Dean of Brisbane, the Very Rev Dr Peter Catt said. “As a result of this important advocacy, people from many backgrounds found a common ground with the Christian message of welcome, which led to a positive change in public opinion.”
NEW CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL MOVEMENT LAUNCHED IN AUSTRALIA
Maverick Liberal senator Cory Bernardi’s effort to build a right-wing activist group to rival GetUp, has purportedly registered more than 50,000 supporters in one month. Australian Conservatives has been touted as a campaigning force designed to “save” the Liberal Party by luring back disillusioned right-wingers, but there is scope to transform the movement into a new conservative political party. The group’s headquarters has emailed supporters touting its breaking through the 50,000-supporter ceiling – already exceeding the subscribers to Senator Bernardi’s own personal newsletter. “With over 50,000 registrations, our movement already has significant support. Our challenge is to grow that interest in the years ahead and use our numbers to affect real change,” the email read.
The email said the group’s new website would be online within “a couple of months” and would use top-quality technology to “adapt to our needs as the Australian Conservative movement grows”. The group has also used donors’ funds to hire an Adelaide-based communications officer, who will be based at the Australian Conservatives headquarters in Adelaide. Soliciting donations, the email reads: “Our movement is a work in progress but we are establishing strong foundations upon which to build a sustainable and influential future. None of this would be possible without your financial and moral support. “Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done but we have made a solid start.