PINNING every abortion on a woman's physical or psychological health increased the guilt and stress felt by mothers, a parliamentary committee has heard.
Council of Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity's Dr Jamie Broadribb told a Legislative Council committee into decriminalising abortion that proposed legislation, which asks doctors to assess requests to terminate a pregnancy after 16 weeks' gestation in terms of the risk to the mother, was unfair and inaccurate.
Pregnancies terminated earlier than 16 weeks would only require the woman's consent.
Dr Broadribb said the majority of pregnancies terminated past 20 weeks - which was fewer than 1 per cent of all abortions - were cases of severe foetal abnormality.
But he said neither existing Tasmanian law nor the proposed Reproductive Health Bill reflected that.
``It focuses solely on the woman, and that puts an enormous amount of guilt on the woman,'' Dr Broadribb said.
``They carry that guilt around for a number of years.''
Dr Broadribb and colleague Dr Michelle Williams urged MLCs to list severe foetal abnormalities as a reason for termination in the proposed legislation, similar to a clause found in South Australian law.
Launceston general practitioner Dr Beth Mulligan said the uncertain legal status of the procedure made doctors reluctant to perform or even facilitate it, meaning Launceston women often had to travel to Hobart or Melbourne to access a termination.
Launceston has one private abortion provider, staffed by a Melbourne doctor who flies in for a day clinic.
``Any time he needs to have a break or he is ill and can't provide the service, it creates a real problem for people in our region,'' Dr Mulligan said.
Archbishop of Hobart Adrian Doyle told the committee the Catholic Church did not support either the proposed or the existing legislation.
``We have become much more aware of the long-term effects of sexual abuse, when we thought it would all stop straight away,'' Archbishop Doyle said.
``Well it turns out that it doesn't, and I suspect that there's a parallel with this situation - people regretting for years and years what they have done.''