THE process of enacting anti-abortion laws so strict they don't allow rape victims to terminate their pregnancy past about six weeks was detailed at a pro-life forum in Hobart last night.
North Dakota Republican legislator Bette Grande was the keynote speaker at the Right to Life conference in Victoria last week and visited Tasmania at that organization's invitation.
Mrs Grande told the small audience that the North Dakota foetal heartbeat bill, currently tied up in federal court challenges, would ban all abortions past the point a foetal heartbeat could be detected, except where necessary to save the life of the mother.
Mrs Grande said the strict provisions even applied to victims of rape.
"Is there a heartbeat present?" she said.
"She would carry that because there's a potential life there."
The forum did not discuss proposed reforms to Tasmania's abortion laws, which are before a Legislative Council committee.
The Tasmanian Reproducitve Health Bill passed the lower house in April and would decriminalise abortion on the proviso that pregnancies terminated after 16-weeks were done so on the recommendation of two doctors on the grounds of risk to the woman's mental and physical health.
Mrs Grande said North Dakota's laws were also for the "health and safety" of the mother, the area of abortion regulation left to US states after the landmark 1973 case Roe v Wade made abortion a constitutional issue.
It's on those grounds that the foetal heartbeat law is being challenged, a process Mrs Grande said could take two years.
If it is upheld, she said, the heartbeat law would be effective across the United States.
In the mean time, North Dakota's existing pro-life laws means women who have an unwanted pregnancy are given information about the developmental stages of pregnancy, adoption support information and details of the actual process of an abortion.
"Our health department is required by law to support the child being carried to term over abortion, in that they counsel to that," Mrs Grande said.
If an abortion is requested the woman is required to have a 24-hour cooling off period, during which she is offered a free ultrasound and heartbeat screening, and is then required to sign a document "recognising they are separating a whole and separate person."
Mrs Grande said the policy was about providing informed consent, adding women "have come too far in our right to independence to be lied to at a critical stage."
"We know that society does not condone torture until death, but isn't that what happens when you have an abortion?"
"Wouldn't it be better if we convince these women, though love, that it would be better to give their child up for adoption than for it to be murdered?"
Mrs Grande said it was not a woman's rights issue - "the choices for a woman took place before conception" - and suggested abortion had a high correlation with mental health issues and breast cancer, which Australian women's health networks dispute.