Attorney-General to speak at hard-line pro-life event

Liberal politicians are headliners at an anti-abortion, anti-gay conference, where an alleged link between abortion and breast cancer is one topic and the crackdown of Russia’s Vladimir Putin on homosexuals will be lauded.

Josh Gordon [and] Heath Aston

State [Victorian] Attorney-General Robert Clark is set to address a hard-line pro-life event in Melbourne organised by a controversial United States-based group dedicated to preventing abortion and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Mr Clark will deliver a “welcome to Victoria” speech to the World Congress of Families, an event that also features an American doctor promoting a discredited link between abortion and breast cancer, a promoter of Russia’s “crusade” against homosexuality, and representatives from the hard-right Rise Up Australia Party.

The conference, which will take place late next month [August], will be opened and closed by federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, who, according to the flyer for the event, is an international ambassador for the congress.

Mr Andrews will be joined by the congress’s managing director, Larry Jacobs. Dr Jacobs has been a strong supporter of Russian laws banning gay pride demonstrations and “homosexual propaganda”.

In a 2013 interview, he hailed the ban as a “great idea” that was “preventing [gays] from corrupting children”, and praised Russia as the “Christian saviours to the world”.

Angela Lanfranchi, founder of the New Jersey-based Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, will give a talk on “The link between abortion and breast cancer”.

Mr Andrews defended his decision to appear at the event, saying it was related to his portfolio responsibilities. His spokesman said: “The minister accepted an invitation to open this conference because it relates to his portfolio. The choice of speakers is a matter for conference organisers.”

A spokesman for Mr Clark said the Attorney-General was “welcoming an international conference to Melbourne on behalf of the government. Delivering a welcome address does not necessarily imply support for particular speakers or their topics.”

But doctors have expressed concern that a government minister would associate with an event that could add fuel to a debunked theory.

The World Health Organisation, the US National Cancer Institute, Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and health authorities in Victoria and New South Wales all say there is no link between women who choose to terminate pregnancies and those who contract breast cancer. A study of 1.5 million Danish women showed no increased risk of breast cancer as a result of abortion.

The Coalition’s leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, and Liberal senator Cory Bernardi are listed as supporters of the World Congress of Families event, which will also be addressed by controversial anti-abortion campaigner and Victorian upper house MP Bernie Finn. Mr Finn recently ran into controversy after claiming abortion should not be acceptable in any circumstances, including cases of rape.

Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to decide whether it was appropriate for Mr Andrews to attend at all:
“Tony Abbott . . . should not be letting these backward views cloud good, evidence-based policy.”