September 3, 2013

Defining what’s “natural and normal” during the Federal Election

by Daniel Matthys

It appears there is a federal election on this weekend. Unfortunately only a week left of the campaign it appears we have missed the chance to discuss all the interesting electoral issues and as the campaign moves into its final moments I imagine that the focus will turn to the most boring issue of any election; the economy. I do not think I can work up enough interest in the Australian economy for a blog post so this will likely be my only post for the 2013 Federal Election. “Such is life”, as Ned Kelly once remarked, albeit under slightly different circumstances.

The one election related post I do feel compelled to write on, is Kevin Rudd’s position regarding same-sex marriage. With the return of Kevin Rudd same-sex marriage is firmly on the Labor Party’s agenda, with Rudd promising to change marriage laws to allow partners of the same sex to be married within 100 days of being returned to office. You can hear Mr. Rudd’s reasons for his view as given during Q&A here

Kevin Rudd believes that homosexuality is “natural and normal” because we do not decide our sexual orientation but are, to steal a phrase from Lady Gaga, “born this way”. Ergo the prime ministry’s definition of what it means to be natural and normal is presumably to be true to “how you are built.” For the Prime minister, Australian’s should accept any inherited characteristic as natural and normal. This seems very reasonable. To condemn something that a person cannot control about himself or herself seems highly unjust. What could be more natural than the genetics that make me who I am?

The problem is that society does define certain genetic makeups, or the physical disabilities, as abnormal. Genetic disorders, for instance, fit the Prime minister’s criteria of “normal and natural,” they are not chosen but are imposed upon those that have them, no less so than homosexuality. Yet we would hardly think to call a genetic disorder “natural and normal”. In a similar category are physical disabilities. Blindness from birth, for instance, would fit Rudd’s definition of “natural and normal.” Blindness is a physical condition, not chosen but imposed, again no less than homosexuality. But it is not normal or natural to be blind. This is why our society caters specially for those with physical and/or genetic disabilities and why the medical establishment attempts to cure, or at least manage, disabilities. None of this is to suggest that those who suffer from genetic or physical disabilities are somehow “less human” but that their condition is an abnormality, to be cured if possible and managed if not.

This does not bring us to the topic of same-sex marriage. Nothing that I wrote above was intended to prove that homosexuality is abnormal (a topic for another post); only to point out that Rudd’s rationalisation of his position was particularly weak. Based on the contents of Kevin Rudd’s remarks at Q&A however I would like to ask the Prime minister a question of my own;

Given your strongly expressed belief, Mr Rudd that it is wrong to discriminate against people based upon “how [they] are built”, will your government if it is re-elected introduce legislation that prohibits abortions predicated by the child’s;

1) Gender; along the lines of Senator John Madigan’s “Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Funding for Certain Types of Abortion) Bill 2013”

2) And genetic makeup; prohibiting abortion predicated by the diagnosis of genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome?[1]



[1] Studies from Europe and the United States suggest more than 90% of pregnancies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are terminated. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/%28SICI%291097-0223%28199909%2919:9%3C808::AID-PD637%3E3.0.CO;2-B/abstract