Wednesday, 13th November 2013

The Australian Christian Lobby said it’s disappointed a Tasmanian parliamentary report on abortion missed the key issue in the debate over decriminalising abortion – the baby.

ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said the finding by the upper house standing committee report into the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 failed to make an adequate case to remove abortion from the criminal code.

“Abortion should remain in the criminal code. It is an appropriate place when the life of a child is at stake,” Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown said whilst ACL welcomed the committees’ finding that the $32,500 proposed fines for counsellors who have a conscientious objection to abortion and refuses to refer a woman onto a service is excessive, there shouldn’t be fines at all.

Mr Brown said the committee has failed to realise that the bill suppresses free speech through supporting jail time for those who might protest outside abortion clinics.

“A free and democratic society should allow those who may disagree with the practice of abortion to express their views in visible displays such as prayer vigils and silent protests,” he said.

He said it was equally disappointing the report findings failed to give doctors with a conscientious objection the freedom from being compelled to refer a woman onto someone else.

“If a doctor or counsellor is opposed to abortion on the moral grounds of not taking innocent life, they must have the freedom not to be complicit in the process,” he said.

“The issue of conscientious objection is one that Victorian doctors are currently fighting to change in their state laws,” he said.

Mr Brown said there were several reasons terminations weren’t being performed at public hospitals beyond the one identified by the committees’ findings.

“The report concludes that fear of criminal prosecution is a barrier to terminating unborn babies at public hospitals. This may be the case but it is not the only reason abortions are not routinely performed in the public system – staff had strong conscientious objections for religious and other reasons. However, this wasn’t included in the findings.

“The issue of fear of criminal prosecution from doctors should be addressed via education rather than legislation,” he said.

Mr Brown said ACL would continue to advocate for the rights of the unborn and urge supporters to contact their members to vote against this bill.