LEGISLATION to decriminalise abortion could be blocked in the Legislative Council today, with a number of MLCs still expressing reservations about the proposed reforms.
The Reproductive Health Bill has been subject to lengthy investigation by a Legislative Council committee, which was told by a majority of medical and legal witnesses that the legislation was reasonable and, in some areas, necessary.
It is understood that all MLCs agree that abortion ought to be decriminalised, but at least half still have significant concerns about some areas.
Huon independent MLC Paul Harriss, who yesterday announced his intention to run as a Liberal candidate in the lower house next year, said the bill was "heavy-handed" in its treatment of counsellors and doctors with a conscientious objection.
"There are a few components of the bill that I really am fundamentally opposed to, but there are other components, for instance the proposition to shift the legislative measure from the Criminal Code to a health bill, I think is a reasonable proposition."
The bill requires that doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion tell a patient seeking pregnancy options of that objection and refer them to another, non-objecting service. The same requirement is put on counsellors, with the added stick of a maximum $32,500 fine if they don't comply.
It also introduces penalties for anti-abortion protest, threats or intimidation within a 150-metre "access zone" around clinics, which at least one MLC is expected to try to abolish.
Rumney independent MLC Tony Mulder said he was not convinced the legislation would make a practical difference in the ability of Tasmanian women to access an abortion and would vote against it on the basis that parliament time could be better spent.
Mr Mulder said the claim that it was fear of prosecution that kept public hospitals from performing more abortions was a "furphy" put forward to mask conscientious objection.
Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne, who sponsors the legislation as a private member's bill, has said she was hopeful the legislation would get through.