Sex is just a fact of life, humans in a monogamous relationship; that’s the line Liberal senator Dean Smith has used for years in declaring that same-sex couples should not have the right to adopt children. Then, in the same breath, when it comes to political opponents who support a woman’s right to abortion, he exclaims that the right to abortion has been honored by all constitutions since Western civilization evolved.
Senator Smith may be saying that abortion and adoption “have been both part of Australian life for a long time,” but Senator Bernardi has decided to take him at his word. Both men deny that their comments “blame” victims. It’s clear that he was trying to isolate and stereotype homosexual people, like the anonymous gay man who, Smith said, may have pressured his female partner “into getting her abortion at a very tender age.”
Michele Bernardi is also a supporter of the “science-based” reclassification of sexual education in schools as part of an effort to “tackle the child abuse issue.” In his now notorious speech, he attacked the program’s “hateful, blasphemous, and sinister teaching” while he claimed “indiscriminate and demeaning sexual activities in the pursuit of pleasure cause far more harm than do abstinence-only education.” These views on sex education have been echoed by prominent commentators, including Brian Entwistle, a former director general of the Department of Education and Training, who claims that sex education that encourages teenagers to engage in sexual activity on a “harmless” basis can increase sexual vulnerability to HIV and AIDS.
The Australian Christian Lobby, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest Christian social justice lobby,” also opposes sex education in schools, encouraging parents to remove their children from sex education classes if the subject is considered inappropriate.
Ironically, Smith’s comments on abortion and sex education and Senator Bernardi’s positions on both are based on narrow-minded perspectives born from a narrow-minded society. Put simply, they are victim blaming. The refusal to discuss sex education in schools is not a sign of a tolerant society — it’s a sign of ignorance and regressive attitudes. Smith and Bernardi are uncomfortable with ideas they regard as immoral and unevolved — and, like their sexist and homophobic allies, seek to silence anyone who dares to discuss “a woman’s right to have a baby.”