LIFE ISSUES: by John BallantyneNews Weekly
Tasmanian abortion laws to criminalise dissent
, March 30, 2013
Tasmanian doctors, nurses and pregnancy counsellors who have conscientious objections to abortion could face fines of up to $65,000, or 12-month jail sentences, under draft laws announced recently by the Tasmanian government.
On International Women’s Day, March 8, Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne, in the Lara Giddings-led Labor-Green coalition government, released the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013, which, if passed by Tasmania’s parliament, would give the island-state the most draconian abortion laws outside of communist China.
Ms O’Byrne allowed the public a mere fortnight in which to lodge any comments they might wish to make on the draft legislation. The deadline for submissions was Friday, March 22.
An 18-page government information paper on the draft bill denies that women who undergo abortions suffer any long-term health problems, such as breast cancer or reduced future fertility, or long-term negative mental health outcomes (see page 10).
These assertions are contradicted by numerous studies around the world, recorded in peer-reviewed scholarly journals.
Ms O’Byrne says that she has modelled her draft legislation on Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, which, when it was being debated in parliament, attracted much adverse public comment.
Victoria’s 2008 abortion laws contain a number of controversial provisions, including:
• Failing to provide any support for women who are under pressure from partners or families to undergo abortions.
• Allowing babies to be killed in the womb right up to birth.
• Forcing any Victorian health professional who has a conscientious objection to abortion to refer any woman seeking an abortion to a colleague who has no objection.
A media representative for Human Rights for the Unborn — Tasmania, Mishka Gora, has warned that the provisions of Tasmania’s draft abortion legislation are even more draconian than those of Victoria’s abortion laws.
Says Ms Gora: “The Victorian bill contains no penalties for conscientious objectors; the Tasmanian bill does.
“The Victorian bill doesn’t mention counsellors; the Tasmanian bill threatens counsellors with jail. The Victorian bill doesn’t mention protests; the Tasmanian bill threatens protesters with jail.
“If this bill passes, a part-time volunteer counsellor for an organisation supporting pregnant women could be jailed for a year and fined up to A$65,000 if she refuses to refer a woman to a place where she can get an abortion. The bill’s definition of a counsellor includes anyone who gives ‘advice or information relating to pregnancy options’ and ‘whether or not for fee or reward’. Overnight, all agencies which disagree with abortion will be forced to shut down.
“Medical practitioners will be obliged under threat of a $65,000 fine to make referrals if they have a conscientious objection. To anyone who believes that an unborn child has a right to life, making a referral means cooperating with evil. The proposed laws are coercing participation in the overall process of abortion procurement.
“Nurses who refuse to participate in abortions could be fined $65,000.
“The right to peaceful protest will also be shut down. The bill imposes a 300-metre-wide exclusion zone around abortion clinics. The maximum penalty is 12 months in jail and a $65,000 fine.” (MercatorNet, March 12, 2013).
Mishka Gora, “New frontiers in repressing dissent”, MercatorNet, March 12, 2013.
Babette Francis, “False reassurances: Tasmania’s abortion information paper”, On Line Opinion, March 19, 2013.