Nothing healthy in abortion legislation

WHAT a privilege it will be for women to have unfettered access to abortion up to 24 weeks' gestation (and beyond if they get a couple of doctors on board) when the ludicrously named Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 is passed.

Actually, I don't believe it will be passed.

And, tell me, what is reproductively healthy about terminating a pregnancy?

There is just so much wrong with this draft piece of legislation. Was it scrawled on the back of a used envelope and handed to someone's secretary? Did they stamp a two-week submission period on it in an attempt to curtail response (thankfully this has now been extended)? Why the hurry to make Tasmania the abortion capital of Australia?

I want to speak to the women out there - women like me who are of child-bearing age, who are in a rewarding career perhaps or who are enjoying study, travel, relationships. It's a great age to be alive. I'm approaching 30. It's a time when you're comfy in your not-so-perfect skin, you know where you're going, who you are and what you're good at. Life is full of opportunity, full of choices.

Let's stop here and look at that word "choice". The Oxford Dictionary defines it as an act of choosing between two or more possibilities. Should I wear this dress or that one? Should the kids go to this school or that one? Should we buy this car or that one? Should I have an abortion or ...

The authors of this bill would no doubt call themselves pro-choice, but the document gives no avenue whatsoever for ensuring women like you and I have all the options made available in order to make a truly informed choice about their body, and let's not forget the life of the child already developing within. The child with a heartbeat at just 28 days from conception.

Often I hear arguments about the choice of the woman to do what she wants with her body. But there are other choices hobbled in this bill.

The choice of the child to live. What child doesn't want to live? Where are all the pro-choicers whose lives are so insufferable, they wish they had been aborted instead of being given the opportunity to live?

The choice of adoption. Real choice, not subtly dissuading mothers from gifting their children for adoption and making it almost impossible to adopt.

The choice of the medical practitioner to exercise their moral conviction and say no. The bill threatens such professionals with a hefty $65,000 fine if they fail to refer their patient to a practitioner who does not have a conscientious objection to terminations.

The choice of peaceful protest. Again, a hefty fine for anyone who holds a sign or prays quietly within 150 metres of an abortion clinic. So much for free speech.

The choice of accessing specialised, independent counselling is not addressed in the bill. One would assume it blindly accepts that the abortion provider would supply such support - conflict of interest much? How can an abortion clinic that only makes money when a woman has an abortion give complete, unbiased counselling to women pre and post- termination?

As Germaine Greer, the modern mother of feminism, has said, abortion is the last in a long line of non-choices.

She elaborates in her book The Whole Woman (Doubleday, 1999), shining light on the wrestle between a woman's right to undergo invasive procedures to terminate unwanted pregnancies and her duty to sort the situation out.

The crowning insult is that this ideal is represented to her as some kind of a privilege. Her sad and onerous duty is garbed in the rhetoric of a civil right. Life is the privilege.

Sure, the unexpected happens. But wrapped within that bundle of inconvenience, financial strain and heartache is a precious, valuable life, regardless of gender, race, creed, disability or circumstances of conception.

Women experiencing unplanned pregnancy also deserve unplanned joy (Patricia Heaton, actor and spokeswoman for Feminists for Life).

Submissions to this bill close on April 5. Email public.health@dhhs.tas. gov.au and choose life.

Read more of Claire van Ryn's musings at faithlikeamushroom.wordpress.com.

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