Now that Tasmania’s House of Assembly has passed (13:11) the health minister’s abortion bill with only a few minor amendments, very late last night, it is time for the Legislative Council to consider some key facts in the cold light of day, says Jim Collins of FamilyVoice Australia:
Fact one: Abortion is already legal in Tasmania under the current law – with no restrictions apart from the need for two doctors, including one obstetrician or gynaecologist, to agree that the physical or mental health risks of continuing the pregnancy are greater than the risks of aborting – and that the woman has been counselled about all the risks and given her informed consent.
Fact two: Under the bill just passed by the House of Assembly, there is a requirement for consent, but no requirement for informed consent or counselling before an abortion is performed. If the pregnancy is less than 16 weeks gestation, there is no requirement for counselling of any kind and the woman’s doctor must perform the abortion when asked, or, if the doctor has a conscientious objection, must refer the woman to another doctor he believes is willing to perform it. Abortions performed after 16 weeks gestation and up to birth would be legal, again without requiring the woman to have counselling of any kind or giving her informed consent, as long as two doctors including one obstetrician or gynaecologist agree that the physical or mental health risks of continuing the pregnancy are greater than the risks of aborting. “Economic” factors are among the risks to be considered. The two doctors could both be employed by a clinic with a vested interest in the profitable abortion business.
Fact three: The latest gold-standard study on abortion and mental health, published two weeks ago on 3 April 2013, found no evidence that abortion reduces mental health risks associated with an unwanted pregnancy. On the contrary, this study led by pro-choice NZ researcher Dr David Fergusson found that abortion significantly increases the risk of subsequent mental ill-health including anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, compared with carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Fact four: The penalties in the O’Byrne bill for protests, including silent, non-obstructive protests, within 150 metres of an abortion clinic, are horrendous ($65,000 fine and/or one year in jail) – breaching any reasonable understanding of freedom of speech. There is also a very onerous penalty for a pro-life counsellor who declines to participate in an abortion, so does not refer a pregnant woman for counselling by another person who supports abortion. The health minister has demonstrated extreme hypocrisy, since harassing, obstructing and intimidating are already offences under Tasmanian lawand there is no law against silent, non-obstructive protests against whale killing or tree-logging.
1. Since abortion up to birth is already legal in Tasmania (with safeguards including the requirement for informed consent), why is Michelle O’Byrne’s bill considered necessary?
2. Since the latest reliable evidence indicates that abortion itself is a mental health risk – a risk greater than carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term – shouldn’t government health ministers seek ways to limit abortion access, rather than increase it as Michelle O’Byrne is seeking to do?
3. Shouldn’t the health minister withdraw the parts of her bill which prohibit silent, non-obstructive, non-intimidatory protests, thereby breaching Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a signatory?
- Human life and dignity