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I had an interesting encounter with Leslie Cannold on Triple J’s ‘Hack’ current affairs programme yesterday evening.  I expected it to be somewhat slanted, but what I didn’t anticipate was the rude denial with which Cannold and the presenter responded to basic facts.

After a litany of bizarre claims and factual inaccuracies, Cannold stated that abortion is not legal in Tasmania up until birth.  This is a barefaced lie.  When I tried to point this out, the presenter cut me off, thanked Leslie Cannold, and hung up on me.  They refused to allow the listeners to know the truth.  They simply denied it.

So, I thought I’d assemble some home truths about the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill with which Triple J’s listeners, not to mention Leslie Cannold and certain members of parliament, ought to acquaint themselves if they have any interest in being ‘informed’:

  1. Abortion was legalised in Tasmania in 2001 with amendments to the Criminal Code Act 1924.  It is legal at any state of gestation, i.e. up until birth, as long as certain conditions are met.
  2. It is remarkably easy to meet those conditions.  I myself picked up the Yellow Pages, looked up abortion under ‘A’ in the index, and found myself directed to various advertisements for ‘Pregnancy Termination Services’.  This informed me that my privacy is “assured”, that everything can be done in the “one visit – same day procedure”, and that “bulk billing” is available.  With one telephone call, I also established that a referral isn’t required as there are two doctors on site.
  3. Michelle O’Byrne has herself stated that the changes to the law are so that women can do tests for “genetic abnormalities” that aren’t apparent prior to 20 weeks.  We all know that it’s murder to tear a baby limb from limb, even if it’s premature, but according to Ms O’Byrne this should be legal as long as the dismemberment causing death occurs in the womb, and especially if it has an abnormality picked up at the 20-week scan, such as a club foot or a cleft palate (both of which can be corrected post-birth I might add).
  4. But this legislation goes even further than killing off disabled children.  It allows abortions for social and economic reasons.  It’s true that two doctors will have to sign off on this (as they already do – you may want to re-read point 2).  Not very many people think that this is a good basis for having an abortion; but, even if you do, a doctor (whose expertise is a woman’s reproductive system) cannot certify social and economic circumstances.  They are not social workers or financial planners.  Obviously, the pregnant women themselves are the best judges of their social and economic circumstances, which means that the legislation is merely providing a loophole for abortion on demand that unscrupulously transfers responsibility to doctors.
  5. An unborn child at 39 weeks gestation is 16 weeks older than a premature baby born at 23 weeks.  It is legal even now to abort a child up to 42 weeks – babies are considered ‘on time’ if born between 37 and 42 weeks – and it will be legal to do so for social and economic reasons if this legislation passes.
  6. 150 metres in Hobart goes a long way.  You can walk from the abortion clinic in the heart of the CBD – which is unmarked, by the way, so I’m not sure how you’re supposed to know you’re in the access zone – around the corner into Macquarie Street (which is the main drag for those of you who don’t know Hobart), up to Harrington Street (where there’s a Catholic church on the corner), down to Collins Street (where you could – at present, but perhaps not in a few weeks – attend a pro-life book launch at Fuller’s Bookshop), and back up to the Victoria Street clinic all the while remaining in the access zone.
  7. Obnoxious behaviour such as intimidation, harassment, and obstruction is already an offence.  Duplicating the law isn’t going to enforce it better, and it hasn’t needed to be enforced as there isn’t a history of people protesting outside abortion clinics in Tasmania, something even the Fertility Control Clinic has admitted publicly in writing.
  8. The legislation also gives the police special powers to detain, search, confiscate equipment, and arrest without warrant.  This means a photographer doing a spot of street photography or perhaps taking photos for a news interview with a solicitor outside his premises – yes, the abortion clinic shares its address with a legal practice! – can be detained and searched, have her very expensive camera equipment confiscated, and then hauled down to the local nick.  (And, no, the photographer would not know she was in an access zone. You may want to re-read point 6.)
  9. It requires a counsellor, whether paid or not, to refer if they have a conscientious objection even if the pregnant woman isn’t considering an abortion.  So this means that an unpaid volunteer who is asked for advice about continuing a pregnancy (not ending it) can be fined $32,500 for not referring her to someone who supports abortion.  In effect, it means that anyone who conscientiously objects to abortion cannot provide counselling to a pregnant woman and must make a referral that violates their conscience if a pregnant woman should seek their counsel.  Furthermore, given that a counsellor can’t tell if a woman is pregnant by looking at her, the implication of this is that people who conscientiously object to abortion aren’t allowed to be counsellors.  Doctors face a similar potential loss of livelihood.
  10. 10. That ‘extremely personal decision’ that some people think isn’t anyone else’s business is everyone else’s business.  Apart from abortion killing a defenceless member of our society, etc., etc., it became our business when the government decided to fund abortion via Medicare.

I could go on, but everything I’ve seen in the last few weeks suggests that my words will fall on deaf ears.  Anyone who saw the pro-choice rally last Sunday would have thought that abortion was still illegal and that women were being thrown in gaol by the cartload.  But the supporters of this Bill won’t allow the truth to get in the way of ideology.  That’s why they’ve created an exclusion zone around abortion clinics to protect the abortion industry, special police powers to intimidate ordinary citizens, and exorbitant fines and gaol terms to stifle dissent.  God forbid that a woman exercising her legal choice should be presented with the truth that she’s about to make a deadly mistake, that she’s about to kill her own flesh and blood!