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2006-05-01

Australian legal abortion - a clarification?

This article from yesterday's Age deserves to be reproduced in full.

Abortion crime vote bid
By Jason Dowling, State Politics
April 30, 2006

LATE-TERM abortion could be removed from the Crimes Act and placed under the Health Act if the Bracks Government is re-elected.


The Government is believed to be considering a conscience vote on abortion law if re-elected.

Labor's election platform calls for the Crimes Act to be amended to ensure that "no abortion be criminal when performed by a legally qualified medical practitioner at the request of the woman concerned".

While abortion is no longer a crime in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, terminations in Victoria are performed under a 1969 common law ruling that permits abortion, provided it is necessary to protect the woman's life or health.

Hutch Hussein, spokeswoman for the Labor Party's women's group, Emily's List, said abortion should be under the Health Act .

"Because abortion remains in the Crimes Act, it is technically still illegal and remains the only surgical procedure not covered by the Health Act," she said.

Government spokeswoman Alison Crosweller said Labor's election commitments for this year's poll would be developed after Saturday's ALP state conference.

Opposition Leader Robert Doyle said he would support a change in the abortion law in a conscience vote, but the Liberal Party had no plans to draft the legislation.

Executive director of Women's Health Victoria Marilyn Beaumont said abortion should be treated as a health issue and not covered under the Crimes Act.

But not everyone in the Labor Party would support a change.

Former community services minister Christine Campbell said: "I will never vote for abortion; women deserve better than abortion."
As it points out, only three jurisdictions in Australia have fully decriminalised abortion - Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. In the rest of the nation, unrestricted access to abortion relies on laws much like Victoria's common law ruling that abortion is permitted if it is considered that the pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health.

Currently, general sentiment is that any unwanted pregnancy is a threat to the woman's physical and mental health, virtually all medical practitioners are willing to certify that an unwilling pregnant woman's health is threatened by continuing her pregnancy, thus abortion is generally permitted. That pregnancy terminations are considered surgical procedures that are covered by Medicare is indicative of the general social consensus on abortion being considered a valid and necessary medical decision.

But this is obviously a cultural norm which could change if the pro-life movement wins in the way it presents its message about abortion being riskier than pregnancy and morally wrong besides. Then that open-ended phrase "threatens the woman's life or health" becomes a tool which can be used to deny access to pregnancy termination just as easily as it currently allows it. The way in which this very article opens with a mention of "late-term abortion" when the proposed legal change is about pregnancy termination at all stages shows just how the arguments against a general principle of reproductive choice rights can be spun to appear to be all about a very few difficult and ghastly cases that most people find disturbing.

This law moving the regulation of abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act is exactly how the issue should be framed by pro-choicers. Take the taint of criminality away entirely and regulate a woman's health choice about her reproductive system just the same way that any other health choice is regulated.

I hope that New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory soon follow suit.

8 comments:

Kay aka Kirsten said...

Me too. I didn't even realise it was still under the crimes act in other states. Sometimes I'm amazed by this country (and then I read things like your post above re insurance cover for mammograms etc in the US...).

Hi, BTW, Just stopping by at Crazybrave Zoe's suggestion.

tigtog said...

I was astonished as well. The Powers That Be (PTB) seem to have decided to accede to community standards as far as not prosecuting abortions in the same way they let sodomy charges slide - but without actual decriminalisation the pendulum can swing at any time. That's not good enough.

Thanks for stopping by, Kay.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone ever consider the life of the unborn child? It seems you Pro-Death advocates only think of your selves. If you don't want to get pregnant, don't spread your legs.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone ever consider the life of the unborn child? It seems you Pro-Death advocates only think of your selves. If you don't want to get pregnant, don't spread your legs.

tigtog said...

How exactly does one make that work in a marriage, Anonymous?

My husband and I have just the number of children we want - if we had more children we would not be financially able to give them or the ones we have the upbringing we wish to give them.

My life and my responsibility to my living children trump any alleged right of a few cells growing in my uterus.

As it happens, my husband has been willing to have a vasectomy to ensure that we won't have to worry about conceiving anymore, but sadly, lots of other men who already have sired children aren't as considerate and confident in their masculinity as my man.

I have as many children as I want. If I was to fall pregnant now I would definitely abort without a moment's guilt or hesitation.

Anonymous said...

I am glad my parents didn't decide to see me as an innopourtune conglomeration of cells in my mother's uterus. Have you ever pondered what you would have been had you been aborted. You wouldn't have been able to respond to my challenges nor would have I been able to respond to yours. There would be no ships passing in the ethereal night. I respect your convictions but do not agree with them.

My wife, daughter and I are all travelling well at the moment. We have enough money and love to get by. Another child would severley strain what we are comfortable with. If this ever was to occur we would be able to deal with it. We would have to sacrifice a few things to get by.

My wife when she was first aware that she was pregnant was overwhelmed by the "few cells" developing inside her womb. So was I. These cells have now developed into a beautiful young girl who is in her first year of high school and who has a lot to offer to others. I am glad that she wasn't denied this oppourtunity because of economic reasonings. I would have been guilty as shit if we had killed her because of conveniance.

Matt.

tigtog said...

Matt, when I planned for a pregnancy and it happened, I was overjoyed. Both times. If I had miscarried either time I would have been miserable and eager to try again.

I simply would not have that reaction to an unplanned pregnancy. If it had happened when I was younger, maybe I would have come to be excited and gone ahead with it anyway. But not once I had the two children I wanted. I would not welcome another pregnancy. The embryo would not be a child to me - the potential to become a child after months of gestation, but not a child yet.

The world has enough people in it without bringing unwanted ones, or ones who will be resented for the costs they represent, into the world.

tigtog said...

By the way Matt - if your daughter's in high school and you don't want another child, why not have the snip?

It's so simple for you chaps, and it would save your wife having to take hormonal contraceptives which have nasty side-effects, or whatever else it is that she is doing to not have another child.