Current situation in Tasmania regarding abortion
Abortion is lawful in Tasmania (up to full term) if two medical practitioners agree that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman than if the pregnancy were terminated. No parental approval is required for young girls. Counselling is compulsory.
Laws relating to abortion are contained within the Tasmanian Criminal Code. The sections relating to abortion were amended in December 2001.
Under sections 134 and 135, women and doctors are liable for criminal charges for unlawful abortion.
Section 164 defines a lawful abortion as one where:
- two registered medical practitioners have certified, in writing, that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman than if the pregnancy were terminated; and
- the woman has given informed consent unless it is impracticable for her to do so.
The act further stipulates that "informed consent" means consent given by a woman where:
- a registered medical practitioner has provided her with counselling about the medical risk of termination of pregnancy and of carrying a pregnancy to term; and
- a registered medical practitioner has referred her to counselling about other matters relating to termination of pregnancy and carrying a pregnancy to term.
Further conditions contained in the legislation include that:
- one of the medical practitioners must be an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist;
- the termination must be performed by a registered medical practitioner;
- no person is under a duty to participate in abortion, referring for abortion, or providing counselling for abortion. This clause is invalid if an abortion is medically necessary as a matter of immediacy to save a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent serious immediate injury.
Source: Children by Choice (NB: Children by Choice is an advocate of abortion)
There are currently two private abortion providers operating in Tasmania that perform the majority of abortions. One is a fly in fly out service from Victoria that operates in Moonah (Hobart) one day a fortnight. The other provider has permanent facilities in Launceston and Hobart and operates only one day a week due to low demand. There is another clinic of unknown origin operating out of Burnie. NB: Abortions performed after 12-13 weeks require an overnight stay and therefore are not performed in clinics. Most post 12-13-week abortions require a trip to Melbourne as there are supposedly few abortions performed in Tasmania outside of the clinics. Around 95% of abortions occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. The permanent clinics have no waiting list, two doctors are on hand to sign off on abortions, and there is no requirement for a referral from another doctor. Abortion is widely accessible and there are no prosecutions of doctors or patients.
Why the ‘need’ to change?
The following comes from a motion passed at the 2011 ALP State Conference:
Labor believes in the rights of women to make decisions regarding their bodies, fertility and reproductive rights. The fact that termination of pregnancy sits within the Criminal Code potentially criminalises Tasmanian women and medical practitioners, and also has the effect of restricting access to vital health services.
This has the potential to have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged women, particularly young women.
Conference calls on the State Government to remove pregnancy termination from the Criminal Code and further calls for equitable, accessible and legal terminations to be available to women through Tasmanian health services.
How is the amended bill different from existing law?
- Abortion will no longer be in the criminal code, but rather in health related legislation, so will be treated much like any other medical procedure i.e. the life and rights of the child are being ignored.
- There will be no need for doctor assessments or counselling up to 16 weeks.
- Post-16-weeks the doctors’ assessments will be similar to the current laws except now they will be required to take into consideration the future physical , psychological, economic and social circumstances of the woman.
- Doctors and counsellors who have a conscientious objection to abortion and do not refer a patient to someone who does not have such an objection face either professional sanctions (doctors) or fines of up to $32,500 (counsellors).
- People involved in protests, including silent, prayerful protests within 150m of an abortion facility (e.g. on the steps of a nearby church) can be fined up to $32,500 and/or face one year in jail.
How is the amended bill different from the original bill put forward in March 2013?
- The gestation at which doctor assessment is required was dropped from 24 down to 16 weeks.
- The monetary fines for non referring doctors was removed and replaced by professional sanctions.
- The maximum monetary fine for non referring counsellors was halved from $65,000 to $32,500.
- Police powers were increased when dealing with protestors caught protesting near abortion clinics.
Even the Greens are willing to acknowledge the rights of babies in the womb.
Return to the main Campaign page