Fred Nile, Charlotte Dawson, Abortion And Suicide

IT’S NOT OFTEN that I find myself making any attempt to defend the Rev Fred Nile; there is conservatism, and then there is the brand of mindless, fundamentalist religious fervour he regularly advocates. But his comments — highlighting the fact virtually every obituary written in the wake of the sad death of model Charlotte Dawson has ignored the effects of an abortion she had in 1999 — have been maliciously and dishonestly pilloried.

First things first: I was devastated to learn that model and TV personality Charlotte Dawson committed suicide last weekend; it is difficult to comprehend, without a first-hand appreciation of the effects of depression (although I have a number of people in my “circle” who are sufferers), why a beautiful, vivacious woman seemingly filled with life and with everything in the world going for her would be driven to such a tragic end, although I do know enough to know that the condition and its consequences are often inexplicable in any logical or reasoned sense by what might ordinarily be described as normal standards.

And on the issue of abortion, readers already know I’m not exactly on the cheer squad for its advocacy, save for instances of rape or where a foetus is at risk of birth with severe deformity and/or disability. Even so, those decisions are for others to make — as in this case — just as any adverse consequences must be borne by those make them.

It is in this vein that I feel compelled to comment today; the point Rev Nile has sought to make is no doubt informed by his religious views but is nonetheless pertinent in light of any attempt to understand what might have motivated Dawson to take her own life.

For those readers not familiar with Nile’s comments — or who have heard or read about them only through second or third-hand sources — I suggest a reading of the actual comments he posted on Facebook on 23 February is a good place to start.

It might surprise many to see that Nile isn’t running off on a morality crusade, or a rant against abortion drenched in fundamentalist religious fervour; in fact, he simply makes the point that Dawson herself identifies the abortion she had 15 years ago as being the root cause of her depression, and notes that this fact has been largely omitted from the dozens of obituaries and tributes that have been written in an outpouring of grief in the wake of her death.

Conservative Daily Telegraph columnist (and known committed Catholic) Miranda Devine makes the point in one of her articles today — in also seeking to bat away the unreasoning and unreasonable rantings of what I call the “wimmin’s lobby” (that is, those whose view of issues such as abortion is so one-eyed that even the slightest deviation from their mantra demands immediate crucifixion at almost any cost) — that it would have taken real courage for an otherwise strong, liberated and pro-choice woman such as Dawson to articulate the impact her abortion had on her.

Perversely, Devine no doubt has in mind the christian fundamentalists rather than the wimmin’s crowd as the likely antagonists such admissions might attract. Indeed — as she notes — Nile’s post had been “gentle and respectful.”

There are a few points to make here.

First, nobody — not me, not Nile, not Devine, nor anyone else — has suggested or even sought to suggest Dawson took her own life as a consequence of having had an abortion. Clearly, a lot of factors over a very long period of time fed into her untimely demise last week. But to listen to the outraged howls emanating from some sections of the hard social Left, one could be forgiven for thinking Nile had made exactly such a direct causal link.

Second — irrespective of your views on abortion, the right to choose, or any aspect of the minefield that constitutes the debate on the subject — it is safe to say that there is no universal law when it comes to abortion, or in this case its after-effects: personal anecdote it may be, but I know a lady who’s had six abortions in pursuit of her career, has neither the interest nor intention to ever have children, and is upfront about her view that in terms of any emotional consequences she has faced none. Dawson, by contrasts, pinpoints it as the beginning of her fight with depression and an enduring source of sadness and regret. Others will have different positions and different experiences. These can’t be shut down or bulldozed away by a rigidly militant and ideological standpoint the Left insists must be unquestioningly accepted. Accusations of knuckle-dragging and “misogyny” await anyone who dares to deviate from it.

And third, if we are to embrace Dawson fully in death, we must also accept and embrace the highs and lows that defined her in life. This is not some sister of ideology we’re talking about; it’s a normal woman for whom the tribulations of life grew to be too much for her to cope with. In addition to her abortion, we have a failed marriage, an enduring love for her ex-husband, the loss of her job as a presenter at Foxtel and what is believed to have been an extremely punitive personal financial position all known to be factors that have fed the depression she has so openly battled.

The issue of the so-called trolls Dawson was confronted with on Twitter — who dared her to kill herself, very nearly succeeding on at least one occasion prior to her doing precisely that — has also been well documented, as have all of the other factors I have mentioned. And then some.

Nile’s point is that from her own mouth and in her own words, the emotional consequences of her abortion were as much a contributor among many to her depression, if not her death, as anything else, and should be noted as such.

Too much time, energy and vitriol is expended by the warriors of the wimminhood seeking to silence so much as a nanosyllable that might be uttered in contradiction to its world view on abortion, and too many good men — Prime Minister Tony Abbott a notable example — are unfairly and disproportionately slammed in its divisive and provocative crusade to neutralise anything or anyone whose opinions are out of step with that view.

In this regard — for once — far from being reviled for the stand he has taken, Nile should be commended.

And for someone whose autobiography was subtitled the “Memoirs Of A Blow-Up Doll,” it’s a fair bet Dawson herself would find the fracas that has erupted around Nile’s relatively benign remarks bemusing at best.