SYDNEY, Australia – A lawmaker who said Australians were aborting themselves "out of existence," and that the country was at risk of becoming a Muslim state angered colleagues on both sides of the political spectrum Tuesday.
Danna Vale, a lawmaker from the ruling center-right Liberal Party, told reporters Monday she worried that immigrants from Muslim countries could eventually outnumber native-born Australians if the current rate of abortions continued.
Her comments came as members of the House of Representatives prepared to debate whether to strip regulatory control of an abortion pill, mifepristone — also known as RU-486 — away from Health Minister Tony Abbott and hand it to the country's main drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The TGA has control over all other drugs in Australia, but a 1996 law shifted regulatory authority over RU-486 to the health minister. Last week, the Senate voted 45-28 to hand control of the drug back to the TGA, a move expected to pave the way for the drug to be cleared for use in Australia.
"A certain imam ... actually said that Australia's going to be a Muslim nation in 50 years time," Vale said, explaining her opposition to the bill.
"I didn't believe him at the time, but when you actually look at the birth rates and when you look at the fact that we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 abortions every year ... that's five million potential Australians we won't have here (in the next 50 years)," Vale said.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone — an outspoken supporter of the bill and fellow Liberal Party member — said Vale's suggestion that people from Muslim countries might eventually outnumber native-born Australians was "completely ill-founded."
"That's just a complete misunderstanding of how our migration program works and where our source countries are," said Vanstone. "I just don't know where this idea has come from. It's just not possible."
Most immigrants come to Australia from England, New Zealand, China, India, South Africa and the Philippines, she said.
One of the bill's co-sponsors, Sen. Lyn Allison — who last week told the Senate of her own personal experience with having an abortion — said Vale's remarks were "outrageous."
"They're very unfortunate from almost every point of view," Allison told reporters. "I think the prime minister should come out and say that was ill-considered and that she ought to apologize."
Members of the opposition Labor Party has also called on Vale to retract her comments, labeling them as bizarre.
"Everyone's entitled to their point of view but that's seriously a weird one," Kevin Rudd, the Labor Party's spokesman for foreign affairs told reporters Tuesday.