Abortion Tas: Anglican submission

Today we submitted the Anglican Church of Tasmania’s Submission-Church-Submission to the Draft Bill and Consultation Paper proposed by the Tasmanian Government’s Health Minister as a private member’s bill.

I am very grateful to the small team who worked so hard in such a short time to lodge a thoughtful response. I am especially grateful to Revd Will Briggs, Bishop’s Research Officer, for his sterling work in research, writing the draft documents and coordinating the final submission. Thank you.

With others, we protested the initial 2 weeks response time given by the Tasmanian Health Minister and it was extended to 4 weeks! However, this time frame overlapped with the time we had been given by the Government to lodge our submission on the Euthanasia legislation. Well may we say: rushed policy making is poor policy making! Moreover, rushed policy is not only a dis-service to Tasmanians in governance but dismissive and divisive of our community.

This Tasmanian Government has made it very hard for us to engage effectively because of bringing out proposal after proposal for major social change. This rushed and turbulent process has been unnecessary and it has added distress to our community when life is already very challenging for many Tasmanians.

Some excerpts from  the Anglican Church of Tasmania’s Submission:  Firstly, Broad Concerns & then the Table of Contents:

2.    Broad Concerns

 2.1 The Changes Are Significant

The key provision of the draft Bill is to move the regulation of terminations out of Schedule 1 of the Criminal Code Act 1924.  These laws had previously been adjusted in 2002 so as to effectively decriminalise a process for providing and obtaining terminations in Tasmania.

The Minister is of the opinion that the proposed changes in the current Bill are simply a matter of fixing unforeseen implementation problems[i] and that there is no in-principle change to what was decided in 2002.  This is simply not the case.

The Bill makes significant changes both in and around the provision of pregnancy termination.  It is a significant movement away from the balance and resulting equilibrium of previous debates.  It is not reasonable to extrapolate from the status quo into new absolutist territory.  Yet this is what the Bill would do.

The changes that would occur, if the Bill were to pass the Tasmanian parliament, are:

  1. A change in the fundamental framework of regulating termination of pregnancy. Criminality would be the exception, not the rule.
  2. The removal of any reference to the existence of the unborn child.  The subject of a termination, whether lawful or unlawful, would be the mother alone.
  3. The removal of any requirement for assessment of the mother or her child for terminations up to and including 24 weeks gestation.  This would effectively introduce “abortion on demand.”
  4. The broadening of the assessment required for terminations after 24 weeks gestation so that social and economic circumstances are grounds for proceeding.
  5. A new obligation for medical practitioners with conscientious objection to facilitate the procuring of a termination by making a referral.
  6. A new obligation on non medical “counsellors”, a broadly defined category that ostensibly includes anyone who is in a position to offer advice to a pregnant woman, to make a referral.
  7. The creation of geographical areas in which existing public order laws are augmented by restricting ill-defined “prescribed (sic) behaviours” and peaceful protest.

These are not minor changes.  These are profoundly significant changes in areas of discrimination, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and, most sadly, life and death.

  2.2 Fundamental Concerns

The issue of terminations has previously been addressed by the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania, in particular through public statements by Bishop John Harrower who said at the time of the 2002 changes to the law:

”While I am very concerned about the health of mothers, the lives of unborn infants are no less important.”[ii]

Our broad position derives from this simple recognition of the value and humanity of both the unborn child and the mother.  We therefore have a profound and fundamental disagreement with the following provisions of the Bill:

  1. The effective introduction of “abortion on demand” for pregnancies up to 24 weeks gestation is an extreme implementation of the so-called “right to termination.”   It provides few safeguards to the mother, and certainly none to the child.
  2. The broadening of provision of late-term terminations to include all forms of psychosocial and economic factors gives no consideration at all to the viability, health or welfare of the child.

A secondary concern is the provisions in the Bill which relate to freedom of conscience and civil liberties.  We disagree strongly with:

  1. The introduction of an obligation, on pain of penalty, to facilitate terminations through referral.  This requirement is impractical and unconscionable.
  2. The limitation on civil liberties based on geographical areas and the communication of certain points of view is novel and unnecessary.  Nothing has been presented that suggests existing harassment, privacy, and public nuisance laws are inadequate.

[ii]      Bishop John Harrower, Media Release, December 12, 2001

Table of Contents

1. Overview

1.1  Terminology

2. Broad Concerns

2.1  The Changes Are Significant

2.2  Fundamental Concerns

3. The Case for Change Has Not Been Made

3.1  …because unplanned pregnancies occur

3.2  …because current regulation is under criminal law

3.3  …because current law acts as a barrier to healthcare services

3.4  …because the law needs to acknowledge women as capable decision makers

3.5  …because the law needs to recognise that a termination is a safe medical procedure

3.6  …because the law needs to recognise community standards

4. Criminalising Matters of Conscience

4.1  Conscientious Objection and the Duty to Treat

4.2  Obligation to Refer

4.3  Access Zones

5. Recommendations

5.1  Embrace a Life-Affirming Vision for Tasmania

5.2  Withdraw the Bill

5.3  Monitor and Review Properly and Transparently


Abortion Tas: Anglican submission — 6 Comments

  1. Babies/ foetus are welled formed at 20 weeks. How we can think it is OK to abort them for convenience? An awful thought. Seeing the distress of parents whose tiny one has died at the stage of development gave me understanding of the preciousness of life.
    How can medical staff who spend their lives healing and caring for vunereble humans be expected to destroy lives as routine.
    Currently it is possible to have an abortion in Tas.

  2. Thanks so much for the work done to provide us all with this necessary infomation; your hard work is very much appreciated.

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