[caption id="attachment_26638" align="alignright" width="614" caption="Shelley Smith, Dr Jeremy Prichard, Jim Collins (FAVA), Michael Stokes, Dr Helen Lord, Pat Gartlan (CWL), Gaye James, Father Gerald Quinn, Mark Brown (ACL)"]
After a big day of briefings on Wednesday the 12th of June, the Tasmanian Upper House voted overwhelmingly in favour of sending the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill to a standing committee. This will ensure the bill gets scrutinised further before being voted on or amended later in the year.
ACL has been concerned that if the bill had passed in its current form, it would have seen abortion been considered as any other medical procedure and would have allowed unfettered abortion up to 16 weeks. This and other changes proposed would have significant implications for women’s health, for freedom of conscience, free speech and the rights of unborn children.
Local GP Doctor Helen Lord, University of Tasmania Senior Law Lecturer Michael Stokes, counsellor Shelly Smith and social worker Gaye James addressed the 14 Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) briefing yesterday sharing their concerns about the bill to the members in a thoughtful, clear and passionate way.
One person shared the pain of her own abortion as a 16 year old schoolgirl urging the members to consider the lasting impacts of abortion and what truly informed consent might look like. The speeches, and the discussion that followed, left no doubt in Members’ minds that this bill was likely to cause serious harm in the community.
A team in support of the bill, consisting of similar professionals, also made their case to the Members. What became very clear early on was the conflicting reports, when compared to the earlier briefing, regarding the medical and legal ramifications should the bill become law.
Further briefing from the government did not change this dichotomy. As members headed back into the chamber it had already been decided that a committee was the best way to get on record some of the key concerns about this important debate. All but two Members voted for the bill to be sent to committee.
This has been a good result considering how quickly the bill had been progressing up until this point. After a discussion paper was released in March, more than 2000 submissions were sent with 87 per cent against the bill. Despite the response, the health minister continued to pursue the bill, only making minor adjustments to the bill before it passed the House of Assembly in April.
Tasmanians response to the issue has been encouraging. Many people have participated in stopping the bill by signing petitions, participating in street protests, attending a public forum, sending thousands of emails and making numerous phone calls and visits to lower and upper house members.
We praise God for this outcome and ACL has been privileged to be part of a well oiled team working alongside pro life professionals and other groups such as Family Voice and Catholic Women’s league.
Please continue to pray for the committee and Tasmania in general as it continues to confront these radical social reforms.
Listen to an interview Mark Brown did with the ACL's Katherine Spackman on The Political Spot