An unborn child's right to life is being pushed aside in Tasmania's abortion debate by a political desire to put a woman's needs first, Catholic Archbishop Adrian Doyle has said.
Archbishop Doyle and Calvary Health Care mission director Belinda Clarke were the first witnesses before a Legislative Council committee hearing on the proposed Reproductive Health Bill this morning.
The Bill would decriminalise abortion, leaving consent as the only requirement for terminating a pregnancy up to 16-weeks gestation and requiring the approval of two doctors on the grounds of physical, psychological or socio-economic factors after 16-weeks.
Archbishop Doyle said while the church accepted treatment which could endanger an unborn baby's life in cases where the mother's life was also at risk, ending the pregnancy should never be the aim of that treatment.
The Catholic Church does not support Tasmania's current abortion laws, which are similar to the proposed post 16-week requirements but for all stages of pregnancy.
``I am probably here in damage control to try and keep it at the very minimum,'' Archbishop Doyle said.
Archbishop Doyle said he had been disappointed by the debate so far.
``I think at the heart of this is the desire by people to give precedence to the woman,'' he said.
``That's important, but there's another focus that we have to be aware of as well.''
Archbishop Doyle said he was particularly concerned at the conscientious objection clauses, which require doctors or counsellors with a conscientious objection to abortion to state it openly and refer the patient to another service, and include penalties for non-complying counsellors, and the access zones that ban anti-abortion protests or vigils within 150 metres of a clinic.
He said he was concerned the access zones would affect the Hobart church of St Josephs, which falls within an access zone, and prevent it from preaching on the subject.
Rumnney independent MLC Tony Mulder said access zones specifically excluded anything said inside a building or church within the access zones and only applied to those actions targeted at people accessing a clinic.
Mr Mulder likened the zone to laws preventing a person from disrupting mass, as it was about protecting and respecting the decision of a group of people even if you did not agree with it.
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Association representative Lisa McIntosh told the committee it was already against practitioner codes for a doctor who had a conscientious objection to performing a service not to identify that objection and refer the patient on.
The hearings will continue later this morning.