Just over 100 abortions are performed in Tasmania each year on publicly reported figures -- significantly less than has previously been estimated.
Of those about 70 to 80 are performed in the public hospital system, Department of Health and Human Services deputy secretary Michael Pervan has said. Private clinics accounted for about 30 reported terminations a year, but are not obliged to report.
Mr Pervan was Royal Hobart Hospital chief executive from 2008 to 2010 and appeared before the Legislative Council committee on the proposed Reproductive Health Bill today.
He told the committee that the main reason more terminations were not performed in public hospitals was because of the conscientious objection of some staff and a "cultural fear" that taking part in the procedure would lead to criminal sanctions.
That fear was most prevalent among the nursing staff.
"I call it a cultural fear because when I discussed it with the staff who were raising these concerns, no one could bring it back to a prosecution they were aware of or even someone being spoken to by police," Mr Pervan said.
"And yet they were all acutely aware of this provision in the Criminal Code relating to abortion and the penalties that applied."
Mr Pervan said explaining the provisions of the act did little to relieve concerns, "and rather than coerce them to take part... It's been far easier to find staff that will participate."
Mr Pervan said concerns were based on "tea-room talk" and he was not sure if attitudes would improve with the passage of the proposed legislation, which would decriminalise abortion and place sanctions in the medical, not criminal, realm.
It was the final public hearing of the committee, which is expected to report to parliament in two weeks time.
Committee Chair Paul Harris says he's confident the legislation will be dealt with by the end of the year.