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Bridging the socioeconomic divide in contemporary Australia
- Bioscience-bioethics and life factors affecting reproduction with special reference to the Indigenous Australian population


The differential allocation of risks and benefits for growth between differing socioeconomic groups is central to bioscience-bioethical concern. Both a harsh colonial history and self-sustaining inequities are responsible for many of the contemporary problems of Australian Aboriginal children and young adults. We know that children who have experienced a good prenatal environment and were well nurtured in their early years have better outcomes throughout their lives. They do better in school, have higher self-esteem, fewer social, health and behavioural problems and are less likely to become teenage parents, abuse drugs or be involved in crime. We also know that lack of control over ones life engages harmful dynamics symptomatic of marginalization, alienation, resentment, depression and environmental deterioration, and that these harmful dynamics are self-perpetuating across generations. Many lines of research have made the connection between unwanted births and the offspring’s greater than expected risk of criminality (Singer et al. 1979) and that domestic violence and abuse is a strong motivation among women seeking an abortion (Glander et al. 1998).

Reproductive risk, particularly among teenage mothers, reflects low socioeconomic status, inappropriate lifestyles and high levels of distress. Persistent powerlessness in Australia’s indigenous populations is a shameful consequence of the failure of political, religious, health and legal institutions to bridge the gap between knowledge and effective action. Given scientific acumen and good will, it is possible to simply choose to prevent, postpone or skilfully control the worst consequences of poverty, depression, child neglect and drug dependence. Personal mastery has already been placed on top of the priority list in sickness, so why give it so little emphasis on the continuum of wellness? The uneven distribution of common biological rights has serious psychological, social and economic implications for the nation as a whole. We have the knowledge; all we need is sufficient emotional intelligence to compassionately understand social and ecological systems. Since research has provided a solid scientific basis for assessing reproductive outcomes, re-evaluated bioethical principles can now be utilized. These bioethical principles should seek the individual’s commitment to the development of an effective education program that assures good scientific understanding in order to generate universal preventative care, and clearly state its strong disapproval to the needless handicap of the fetus.

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