Give us time: church

HEALTH Minister Michelle O'Byrne has been criticised for not giving Tasmanians enough time to consider proposed law changes that would open up access to abortion.

Ms O'Byrne released a private member's bill and discussion paper yesterday to allow unqualified access to abortion up to 24 weeks, and access to later-term abortions if two doctors have certified that continuing the pregnancy posed a greater risk to the woman than termination.

The public consultation period ends on March 22, but the Anglican Church has asked for more time.

A spokesman for Bishop John Harrower said the church needed time to carefully consider its position.

``We are disappointed that the consultation period is so short and we call on the Parliament to allow a longer, more appropriate time for public comment on this important issue,'' he said.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Jacquie Petrusma, who opposes decriminalisation, said Parliament needed to have a comprehensive debate on the proposed changes.

But Ms O'Byrne said the debate about whether women had the right to choose an abortion had been fought and won in Tasmania when exemptions were placed in the Criminal Code in 2002.

She said the proposed Reproductive Health Bill fixed unforeseen issues of the 2001 decision, such as many Tasmanian doctors being too frightened of criminal sanctions to perform abortions.

Ms O'Byrne said she consulted widely with medical, legal, and women's and youth health groups in drafting the bill.

Bishop John Harrower

Bishop John Harrower


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