THE Health Minister has proposed legislation that moves a safe clinical procedure from the Criminal Code (based on antiquated 1800s law) to stand-alone legislation.
This is not a debate about abortion.
Every woman has the right to understand and access all legal and safe options when confronted with an unexpected pregnancy.
Access to all maternal health choices, including safe accessible terminations, is a right confirmed by the World Health Organisation Statement and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
What is at issue is whether a woman and her doctor, undertaking a safe medical procedure, should be subject to up to 21 years' imprisonment - surely an untenable view for even for the most strident opponents.
A survey of Tasmanian general practitioners found that while 78 per cent believed they understood our abortion laws, 70 per cent misunderstood when an abortion may be legally performed.
That's not the fault of doctors. It's the fault of the legislation.
When the cost of that confusion could be imprisonment, there should be no surprise that doctors avoid risk, affecting provision of services.
This issue generates significant feeling and misinformation:
The legislation does not extend the gestation period. There is currently no maximum gestation period in Tasmania and this legislation proposes 24 weeks.
It is not a distraction. Fifty-one per cent of women experience an unplanned pregnancy, and 60 per cent of those use at least one form of contraceptive.
Terminations are not easily available. There are three private clinics that charge $200-$300 in out-of-pocket cost and often run waiting lists. The burden falls heavily on the financially disadvantaged and women in rural and remote areas.
No one is pro- abortion. A termination is a life-defining decision. We need to respect women to choose when and if they will have children and not have their future determined by a mistake.
The legislation does not force professionals to facilitate abortions. It recognises clinicians' right to a personal objection but also a woman's right to be referred to an unbiased provider.
Access zones do not deny freedom of speech. People are free to express views as they see fit but not to harass staff or clients within 150 metres of a clinic.
A 2012 statewide survey found that 86 per cent of Tasmanians support termination as a medical, not criminal, decision.
These findings echo national figures and the comprehensive reform consultation in Victoria.
Our government has confronted a significant social agenda recently and they need to hear from the majority through letters, emails and submissions to the consultation process.
Please visit www.endtheconfusion.com.au
Glenn Campbell is chief executive of Family Planning Tasmania and has over 15 years' experience in the health sector including as CEO and general manager of private hospital groups, a palliative care hospice and support organisations for children. He has been a director of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service and Mental Health Carers Tasmania. Family Planning Tasmania operates bulk-billing sexual and reproductive health clinics throughout Tasmania. It does not perform terminations but provides comprehensive unbiased advice to clients and supports them to make fully informed decisions.