Abortion objection fines 'excessive' 

PROPOSED $32,500 fines for counsellors who have a conscientious objection to abortion and refuse to refer a woman considering termination to another service are excessive, a Legislative Council committee report has said.

But the committee found that other controversial aspects of proposed abortion reforms, such as the proposed protest-free access zones, were necessary, and that doctors were already required under professional codes not to interfere with access to a termination and a requirement that they refer on could be fulfilled by offering patients a pamphlet.

It also found that public hospitals were unwilling to provide abortions in Tasmania because of fear of criminal charges.

The report of the committee into Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill was tabled in the Legislative Council today after seven days of public hearings.

The  Bill was tabled and a private members's Bill by Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne this year and proposes removing abortion from the Criminal Code on the proviso that terminations past 16 weeks are found by two doctors to be required for medical, psychological or socio-economic reasons.

Abortions up to 16 weeks would only require the woman's consent.

MLCs referred the legislation to committee earlier this year after it was passed 13 to 11 in the lower house.

It is expected to be debated in the upper house next week, leaving the lower house less than two sitting days this year to accept or reject any amendments.

Michelle O'Byrne

Michelle O'Byrne