The pro-life argument in the abortion debate has seen some eyebrow-raising comments, but perhaps none more so that the latest abortion restrictions proposed by Victorian Independent MP Geoff Shaw.
During discussion of the legislation in the Herald Sun, Shaw he said he intended to introduce a bill which would require doctors to "resuscitate babies who survive abortion attempts". Aside from using emotionally-charged lexicon to draw up images of healthy, newborn infants, Shaw also made a transparent attempt to flip-turn his pro-life argument in favour of women.
Attributing the lack of female representation in parliament to Victoria's abortion laws (without actually advocating the idea of female leadership in the workplace), he added: "If in society we are saying there should be more women on boards, there should be more females in parliament, well you are killing them."
Still, the appalling content of his proposed legislation has been largely overlooked by his comparison of the termination of a foetus to the protection of Australian wildlife: "Here in Australia we can't kill snake eggs but we are quite happy to kill an egg in the tummy and it should be the safest place for a baby to be." The comment, unsurprisingly, has garnered attention on social media, with users mocking Shaw's alleged misunderstanding that foetuses are gestated in the digestive system.
Shaw's comments are, of course, based on nothing more than myths and misconceptions. The issue of women in the workplace is largely unrelated to abortion legislation.
Rita Butera, the executive director of Women's Health Victoria, told Guardian Australia that there was no evidence to suggest that sex-selective abortions are rife in the state. Although an equitable gender mix would allow us to avoid ill-informed "tummy egg" comments from state representatives, this is a separate issue.
But whether the comments truly reveal Shaw's ignorance towards biology and women's issues or whether they were designed to shock – they are more than a laughing matter.
The #tummyeggs hashtag – with mocking references to scrambled, fried or boiled – is one example of social media activism. On the other hand, however, the joke quickly sours when you realise how much influence the individual making the comment has. Geoff Shaw holds the balance of power in the Victorian parliament, supporting the Parliamentary Liberal leader Denis Napthine's government.
Shaw's comments are undoubtedly ridiculous. He proposes legislation outlawing "partial birth" abortions – a hysterical anti-abortion rhetoric deployed by the ignorant. He compares the termination of a pregnancy to wildlife protection, and he seems to misunderstand the science behind the creation of foetuses.
Although Napthine has previously ruled out any changes to abortion laws, he refused to rule out allowing debate and a conscience vote on Shaw's bill – which he plans to put forward to the State Parliament. While his views command ridicule on Twitter, we must not forget Shaw has influence and visibility – a power not to be derided.