Tasmania's abortion bill passes

Abortion legislation has passed the House of Assembly after conservative Labor politicians voted in support of the bill.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman, Denison Labor MHA Graeme Sturges and Braddon Labor MHA Brenton Best spoke in support of the Reproductive Health Bill last night, guaranteeing Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne the crucial 13 votes.

The legislation removes abortion from the criminal code and allows abortion up to 16 weeks if the woman provides her consent, and after 16 weeks if two doctors say it is medically, psychologically or socio-economically justified.

Mr Wightman opposed voluntary euthanasia legislation on personal grounds last year and was expected by opponents of the legislation to vote against the bill.

He defended his decision by saying he could not in good conscience restrict a woman's choice.

``It's not for any government to dictate to women how and in which circumstances they should lose control over their own bodies,'' Mr Wightman said.

``If we live in an equal society, then women should legally be in control and have the right to decide over their reproductive rights.''

Mr Wightman said he had examined landmark court cases concerning abortion from Australia and overseas, and determined that the justifications for abortion allowed under the bill were consistent with established law.

But he said he did not agree with the $32,500 fine for counsellors who do not disclose a conscientious objection to abortion or provide a referral to another service.

Mr Best said he was not comfortable with abortion but would support the legislation in its current form.

However, he said he would not support the legislation if the gestation limit was lifted from 16 weeks to 20 weeks.

Ms O'Byrne, Premier Lara Giddings, Denison Greens MHA Cassy O'Connor and Lyons Labor MHA Rebecca White said they may support an amendment to increase the gestation limit if it is raised in committee.

The gestation limit in the draft legislation was 24 weeks, and was lowered to gain more acceptance in the house.

No Liberal MPs supported the legislation, despite Leader Will Hodgman and Deputy Leader Jeremy Rockliff saying that they were pro-choice and supported decriminalisation.

Supporters of the legislation criticised Mr Rockliff for voting against the legislation on the grounds that the process was insufficient.

Mr Rockliff said he was pro-choice and supported the intent of the legislation.

But he said he was concerned that as a private member's bill the legislation had not been through the usual checks and balances, that the consultation period was insufficient, and that he and other politicians felt rushed into a decision.

Mr Rockliff said he would peruse decriminalisation legislation if the Liberals won the next election.

``I believe that change in this area is needed in this area and I am committed to pursuing it, following the full proper process,'' he said.


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