July 7, 2022

Tasmania decriminalises abortion

The legislature of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, has passed an law which relieves abortion doctors of fear of prosecution and stifles dissent by conscientious objectors and protesters.

The legislature of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, has passed an law which relieves abortion doctors of fear of prosecution and stifles dissent by conscientious objectors and protesters.

The Reproductive Health (Access To Terminations) Bill 2013 passed the upper house on Thursday after a lengthy debate.

In line with two other jurisdictions, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, the new law removes abortion up to 16 weeks from the criminal code and effectively allows abortion on demand up to birth. There is no cooling off period and no mandated independent counselling.

State Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne said it was the proudest moment of her political career: “It brings our laws into the 21st century, into line with community expectations and the overwhelming majority of medical, legal and human rights opinion.”

However, the bill also contains unprecedented and draconian provisions for opponents of abortion. Originally objecting doctors were to be required to refer patients to a willing doctor. This was  provision was softened. Now they are compelled to give patients information about abortion options – which some doctors will still regard as unethical cooperation.

The new law also imposes Australia’s first “bubble zones” around abortion clinics. Within a radius of 150 metres a range of activities is prohibited and can attract a financial penalty or imprisonment. Diana Hutchinson, a Hobart lawyer, pointed out that “the Committee inquiring into these new laws did not report any evidence that protests have actually occurred outside any Tasmanian abortion clinic. The Committee also did not evaluate any peer-reviewed published evidence that there are impacts on women seeking an abortion from hearing or seeing protests.” 

Michael Cook
Creative commons
abortion
conscientious objection
Tasmania