Tom Baxter today condemned abortion comments by Nelson’s MLC who told the ABC that the reproductive health bill passed by Tasmania’s Lower House “still allows people to have an abortion at 38 to 39 weeks for issues such as economic or social reasons”.
He has since posted on Facebook:
“…. Where I have a problem with the latest legislation passed by the House of Assembly is the ability of a woman to terminate as late as 38 weeks on social or economic grounds alone. That is a radical step for any jurisdiction. If there is no nexus to a potential or real medical hazard at this late stage of a pregnancy, I can not condone a termination under those circumstances. I know this is the view of the overwhelming majority of women in the electorate of Nelson.”
“His claim about the law is wrong, alarmist in the extreme, and fear-mongering,” Mr Baxter, Greens candidate for Nelson, said. “This sensitive topic deserves rational debate.”
“He is entitled to oppose laws for marriage equality, dying with dignity and decriminalising abortion. But his extreme claim of ‘the ability of a woman to terminate as late as 38 weeks on social or economic grounds alone’ goes too far. It is wrong.”
“The reproductive health bill allows termination after 16 weeks only if a specialist in obstetrics or gynaecology and another medical practitioner both reasonably believe that continuing the pregnancy would risk greater injury to the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health than termination.”
“In assessing the risk of injury to health, the medical practitioners must consider the woman’s current and future physical, psychological, economic and social circumstances.”
“To single out the final two cumulative factors relevant to health, then pretend they alone would enable termination at 39 weeks, is election fear-mongering of the worst kind.”
“At 39 weeks they alone would not satisfy the bill’s objective test for reasonable belief by medical specialists as to the required risk of injury to the pregnant woman’s health.”
“I challenge the member for Nelson to produce a single Tasmanian specialist in obstetrics or gynaecology who would call such belief reasonable, then perform a termination at anytime approaching 38 weeks on social or economic grounds alone.”
Experts in abortion law who have condemned the Nelson MLC’s comments include today Nicole McBride (who helped to write the issues paper that led to the introduction of the termination legislation), and Susan Fahey of the Women’s Legal Service on Twitter.
Dr Kevin Bonham described the comments as amongst “the silliest thing said by anyone even remotely prominent in the [abortion] debate so far”:
And that’s saying something.
The member for Nelson made the extreme claim in an ABC survey of candidates at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-24/mlc27s-quizzed-on-social-issues/4649372
His subsequent Facebook page quote is at https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=581960308489448&id=536717129680433
Nicole McBride, 27.04.13, responded on Tasmanian Times: http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/weblog/article/balance-is-appeasement.-fairness-is-truth-/
Clause 5 of the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 as passed by the Lower House states:
5. Terminations by medical practitioner after 16 weeks
(1) The pregnancy of a woman who is more than 16 weeks pregnant may be terminated by a medical practitioner with the woman’s consent if the medical practitioner –
(a) reasonably believes 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
(b) has consulted with another medical practitioner who reasonably believes 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.
(2) In assessing the risk referred to in subsection (1), the medical practitioners must have regard to the woman’s current and future physical, psychological, economic and social circumstances.
(3) At least one of the medical practitioners referred to in subsection (1) is to be a medical practitioner who specialises in obstetrics or gynaecology.
Note The Criminal Code sets out the circumstances in which a person is guilty of a crime in relation to a termination.
• Fact Sheet: 24_of_2013-Fact_Sheet.pdf