LIFE ISSUES: by John BallantyneNews Weekly
Tasmania widens scope for abortion, restricts free speech
, December 7, 2013
Women in Tasmania can now abort their pregnancies at up to 16 weeks after getting approval from only one doctor (not two, as previously), after new laws were passed by the island-state’s parliament last month.
Tasmania has joined the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Victoria in decriminalising and greatly increasing the scope for abortion.
Furthermore, Tasmania’s Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013, which was passed on November 21, includes an additional controversial clause which makes it illegal for people to protest, even silently and non-obstructively, within 150 metres of an abortion facility. Anybody protesting within the exclusion zone can be fined up to $9,750 or face imprisonment for up to 12 months.
Tasmania state Minister
for Health and Children.
As in the controversial Section 8 of Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, Tasmania’s new laws have overridden the right of doctors to exercise their right of conscientious objection to abortion. Any Tasmanian doctor who declines to refer a woman seeking a termination of pregnancy to an abortionist can face deregistration.
In Victoria, the Australian Medical Board is currently investigating a pro-life GP, Dr Mark Hobart, who refused to refer to an abortionist a Melbourne couple who requested a termination. They had admitted to him that the only reason they wanted the abortion was because they had discovered, at 19 weeks, that they were having a girl, when they wanted a boy (Melbourne’s Sunday Herald Sun, April 28, 2013).
Tony Mulder APM MLC, an independent member of Tasmania’s upper house and a former Commander of the Tasmania Police, has pointed out that, while the Tasmanian bill decriminalises abortion, it simultaneously criminalises well-grounded medical or conscientious objection to the destruction of unborn human babies.
The Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, has similarly observed: “This bill has decriminalised abortion, but criminalised opposition to abortion. It puts Catholic hospitals and all Catholic medical practitioners in an invidious position….”.
Jim Collins, Tasmania state officer for FamilyVoice Australia (FAVA), has criticised the size of the exclusion zone: “That 150 metres is enormous and could take in churches, cafés and a lot of the CBD.”
The Tasmanian legislation’s curtailment of the right of peaceful assembly and free speech is expected to be challenged in the High Court.
Another feature of the bill is that it does not require women to be counselled about the serious long-term physical and mental health consequences they risk when they undergo an abortion.
In April this year a study team, headed by a “pro-choice” New Zealand researcher Dr David Fergusson, published findings that showed that abortion significantly increases the risk of subsequent mental health problems for women, including anxiety disorders, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, compared with carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
In July, Carlo V. Bellieni and Giuseppe Buonocore published a study in the journal, Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, which confirmed these findings. They said: “When comparing abortion and unplanned pregnancies that ended in delivery, four studies found a higher risk for loss of self-esteem, anxiety disorders, depression, suicide ideation, and substance abuse disorder or substance abuse rate in the abortion groups.”
Tasmania’s Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill was originally moved by Michelle O’Byrne, the Minister for Health in the Labor-Greens state government headed by Lara Giddings.
Both Ms O’Byrne and Premier Giddings are prominent identities in Emily’s List, the powerful pro-abortion feminist faction in the ALP.
Ms Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier on January 24, 2011, and has declared that she is “proud to be a founding member of Emily’s List”, which raises funds to support “progressive” (i.e., pro-abortion) female Labor candidates (“Emily” stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast).
She has also long wanted Tasmania to be the first state to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, and has been supported in this bid by the five Greens MPs who hold the balance of power in Tasmania’s House of Assembly.
Ms O’Byrne is a former federal Labor MP, who since 2006 has been an ALP member of Tasmania’s lower house. According to the Premier’s website, Ms O’Byrne has been a “national co-convener of Emily’s List”.
New South Wales
In a contrasting political development, the New South Wales parliament, on November 21, overwhelmingly passed a bill recognising for the first time the crime of grievous bodily harm against an unborn child.
Known as Zoe’s Law, the legislation was prompted by the death of Brodie Donegan’s daughter, Zoe, who was stillborn after Mrs Donegan was hit by a drug-affected motorist on Christmas Day in 2009 while she 36 weeks pregnant.
MPs from both side of of NSW’s lower house, including some pro-abortion MPs, voted for the bill, which was passed by 63 votes to 26. The bill was supported by Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell, but opposed by his government’s Minister for Women, Pru Goward, a former Australian federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner.