Should we send a woman pregnant with twins to Nauru?

English: Nauru satellite picture

English: Nauru satellite picture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edit October 20: Since this and many other articles were published, Morrison has come out strongly denying there are any pregnant women with twins on Nauru. I note he does not say there never were:

Despite this, Mr Morrison used the once-weekly briefing to admonish assembled journalists for misreporting asylum seeker issues, including the widely cited presence of an asylum seeker on Nauru who is expecting twins.

“Again, this suggestion that there’s a pregnant woman with twins on Nauru is simply not true, it’s actually not true,” he said.

“There is not a pregnant woman with twins on Nauru. And this is why I’m stressing to you.”


* * *

Under Australia’s new “no advantage” asylum seeker policies, we have sent an Iranian woman to Nauru. This woman is pregnant with twins.

I have watched heated debate from all sides. I have heard through the grapevine that Morrison will never let the mother return to the mainland because of the risk of encouraging a rush of (presumably) women pregnant with twins on boats.

I would like to look at some of the facts around this case.  The first question is how common are twins: in other words, how likely are boat loads of mothers pregnant with twins? Not very. My husband’s people, the Yoruba, have the highest rate of twin births in the world, 45 – 50 per 1,000 births. South Asia and South-East Asia experiences rates of a much lower 6 – 9 sets per 1,000 births, while USA sits around the 20 – 30 mark (an increase that it is suggested is due to the use of fertility drugs).

I don’t know how many pregnant asylum seekers risk a boat, but for every thousand of them, we could expect maybe 2% to be carrying twins. In other words – NOT A LOT!

Let us look at the countries involved here. Australia, Iran and Nauru.

Under 5 mortality (per 1,000 live births)

Australia: 5
Iran: 26
Nauru: 40

United Nations Human Development Indicator ranking:

Australia: 2
Iran: 76
Nauru: Not Available

I don’t think I need to say a lot about the above comparisons – they speak for themselves.

I accept women having babies is not a new thing. It is my personal opinion the western world has made pregnancy an illness, rather than viewing pregnancy as a very natural and normal part of life. Heaven help us that we should feel any actual pain when pushing! Yes, we have made wonderful medical advances and have very low infant mortality rates compared with many other countries, but let’s not panic over a pregnancy. Don’t turn away just yet, this isn’t over!

I accept that Australia is not obliged under the Refugee Convention to provide this mother with a private room at St Vincent’s Hospital.

That being said, we do have a moral responsibility to ensure the adequate medical care of both the mother and the children. I would have thought our current crop of politicians who crow about their christianity at every opportunity, would have an understanding of moral obligation.

Multiple births are considered, medically, higher risk. The average twin pregnancy lasts 35 weeks (meaning many don’t make it that far). This means the babies are premature and therefore at a greater risk of health problems, although those reaching 35 weeks generally do well.

This doesn’t take into account the stress on the mother of living in a tent in a rather warm climate after a torturous boat trip. The circumstances are extreme.

Nauru is warm, but so is Iran: July in Iran has average highs of up to 37 degrees. I believe Nauru is actually cooler, but we have no knowledge of this mother’s living arrangements in Iran. On the face of it, it seems she is likely used to high temperatures.

What does the Refugee Convention actually say? We are signatories, after all, not that you would believe it given we are in major contravention of the terms!

It seems the Refugee Convention is silent on the question of medical care of pregnant women specifically, however there are other international laws with very specific provisions:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) makes a specific provision for giving “appropriate protection and humanitarian  assistance” (art. 22) to the refugee child.


The above article makes for very interesting reading about asylum seekers generally and the abuses they often face.

I speak of Morrison and Abbott because they are now in charge, but it was the ALP who brought this current policy in. Equally responsible for this situation.

Medical professionals are not impressed either:

Prof. Nicholas Talley, president of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Australia’s peak physician and paediatrician body, said the two pregnancies raised “serious health concerns”. He confirmed that if the woman did have diabetes she would be a high-risk pregnancy.

“In my view, and in the view of the college, the facilities [on Nauru] are inappropriate facilities to deal with cases like these,” he said.


In summary:

  • Irrespective of the Refugee Convention, Australia has an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) to give “appropriate protection”.
  • We currently have a Prime Minister who is known not to be in favour of abortion, yet is willing to risk the lives of unborn babies and of their mother in contravention of the Convention.
  • Mothers carrying twins are twice as likely to develop pre-eclampsia. Not pleasant – I had this with both my pregnancies.
  • We are extremely unlikely to be swamped with pregnant women carrying twins on boats, given the low rate of twin pregnancies globally.
  • We are a first world nation with the medical resources available to support these asylum seeker children as required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and we have a moral and legal obligation to do so.
  • Those in charge professing to be christians need to put their beliefs into practice without being told by an atheist that they are behaving in an immoral way by risking the lives of these babies.
  • The mother and children can be returned to Nauru after the babies are stable and healthy if the government is so intent on continuing this off-shore policy. While I disagree with the off-shore processing policy, the purpose of this article is not to debate that particular policy, only the welfare of these babies.

Other UN Resources:

http://www.who.int/countries/nru/en/ – Nauru

http://www.who.int/countries/irn/en/ – Iran

http://www.who.int/countries/aus/en/ – Australia

22 comments on “Should we send a woman pregnant with twins to Nauru?

  1. […] was because of the furor a while ago about a woman pregnant with twins having been sent to Nauru. I wrote about the case on this site back on October 15. Check the comments – one in particular is on the ball! Morrison later […]


  2. I think it is instructive to look at the actual words the Minister used when discussing whether or not there was a pregnant woman on Nauru expecting twin babies.

    I think he should used rather clever language at the OSB press conference on Friday.

    Here are the Minister’s actual words:

    SCOTT MORRISON: Again, this suggestion that there’s a pregnant woman with twins on Nauru is simply not true.

    QUESTION: They’re not there?

    SCOTT MORRISON: It’s actually not true.

    QUESTION: So there’s no…

    SCOTT MORRISON: …There is not a pregnant woman with twins on Nauru.

    QUESTION: We were told this by…

    SCOTT MORRISON: …Well, they are wrong.

    QUESTION: [Indistinct] visited last week.

    SCOTT MORRISON: And this is why I’m stressing to you, I strongly suggest that the media should more thoroughly interrogate the sorts of claims that are being represented to you. That is a classic example. This suggestion that there has been a pregnant woman with twins on Nauru is simply not true. Now, that said, everyone is subject to the policy of the Government that they will be transferred to Nauru. And we ensure that there is appropriate medical care for not just those conditions, but a wide range of conditions. And people are under close monitoring, particularly to [indistinct] in that condition and we ensure that these services are in place.


    Note – ‘a woman pregnant with twins’ is different from ‘a pregnant woman with twins’ – the first phrase refers to a woman carrying twins, whereas the second could mean a woman with twin children who is also pregnant.
    Hopefully our media with question Morrison more closely about this at the next OSB presser and hopefully he will clarify the situation rather than hiding behind the ‘operational’ shield.


  3. To put a pregnant woman in a tent in the tropics is dispicable. To put ANYBODY in a tent in the tropics is dispicable. To make these people share a tent with many strangers is dispicable. I dunno about all of you, but I have never seen a toilet in a tent. Pregnancy requires many trips to the toilet…. Christianity, Conventions, Human Rights are all in the same boat on the bottom of the ocean. How on earth can human beings and in particular the Australian Department of Immigration with at its head a self professed Catholic behave in this dispicable manner?
    I am led to believe that another 15 pregnant women have or are going to be send to Nauru.
    People just don’t seem to care where their tax dollars are being spend…


  4. Well, it isn’t quite as simple as all that really. Where for example, do Nauruan women have their babies? Assuming the answer is, in Nauru, that begs the question why is OK for them to give birth there, but not asylum seekers? Whilst we certainly do have obligations to genuine refugees, is not the point off-shore processing, identifying who the genuine refugees are amongst the many economic & other types of would-be entrants that set sail for Australia? I would like to see better medical facilities become available to Nauruans, Iranians & everybody else, but the essential question here is do we owe these to people outside Australian jurisdiction? Personally speaking, I think Australia has become xenophobic & heartless compared to the country I grew up in but there are reasons for everything. The Left cannot have its cake & eat it too, which is the point of what you might see as playing a devil’s advocate. Like a lot of men, I am already working long hours & paying big taxes, child support & everything else. We get basically nothing back but are quite aware of the millions thrown at women already, who seems to have an unquenchable penchant for demanding further rights, conditions & other things that cost tax payers & employers. And the thing is, there is no perspective on it. There is no objective arbitration which creates backlashes such as the one that has seen Abbott voted PM. I for example, would prefer a tax cut than see more public spending on women. I would prefer more equal child support & custody arrangements, more flexible & suitable working arrangements for fathers, media reporting of male suicides, an increased emphasis on getting mothers into the work force & a reduction in spending on welfare. None of those things are even on the agenda though, which of course, does a lot to stop men like me caring about women like this one with twins. Real equality means everyone giving a shit about everyone, not just women constantly assuming they alone are the victims of society.


    • Ian, this was a one topic article. Nauru women having twins have a choice to travel elsewhere and they are not forced to live in tents.

      Australia is not reneging on internatiinal conventions either in regard to their babies.


    • A couple of things IanThe main hospital on Nauru burned down on the 15th of August this year, and there is no guarantee that this person will be able to be treated there if complications arise.The other they,there are 2 women expecting twins and they were sent there by Australia we should provide the best treatment available. That is in Australia. As a man who pays taxes you seem to have very little concept of taking responsibility for your actions!


  5. Your government makes me want to scream and bang all their bloody heads together.


  6. Don’t forget It also gets very cold in Iran during winter so saying this woman is used to the heat not quite the whole story Yes it gets to 45c but in winter a lot of places are many degrees below freezing! She is NOT used to the heat as you glibly assume .Heaven help her because the Abbott government is unwilling


  7. Roqia was deported to Pakistan 12 hours after being discovered she was pregnant, she had a history of gestational diabetes and came close to losing baby Mazhar while in the Queen Victoria Hospital. She almost died in Afghanistan due to lack of anti-natal care, Monty and Alamdar had to risk their lives crossing back illegally into Pakistan to get insulin because it was not available in Afghanistan.

    Due to the vicious sanctions against Iran that we are enforcing, as we did the ones against Iraq that caused over 2 million deaths, there is little maternity care in Iran. If any of the babies or mothers die Gillard would have murdered them with Morrison’s assistance and the scabby doctor who said she was fit to travel.

    We are trafficking humans to win the votes of presumed racists in WEstern Sydney, I hope the fucking sleep well while we torture young mums and their unborn children.


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