TASMANIA will become the third Australian state to decriminalise abortion after the Legislative Council passed an amended reform package this morning following two marathon late-night debates this week.
The Reproductive Health Bill removes abortion from the Criminal Code and pushes the existing requirement for two doctors to approve the termination of a pregnancy on medical or psychological grounds up to 16 weeks.
The legislation passed nine votes to five with Windemere MLC Ivan Dean, Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage, Elwick MLC Adriana Taylor, Montgomery Liberal MLC Leonie Hiscutt and Rumney MLC Tony Mulder voting against.
Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne, who sponsored the legislation as a private member's Bill, said it was a "hugely significant piece of reform" and brought Tasmanian law into the 21st century.
It is a win for government's social reform agenda, after the failure of voluntary euthanasia and same-sex marriage legislation.
The legislation was significantly amended to get the support of a majority of MLCs.
Pembroke Liberal MLC Vanessa Goodwin and Apsley MLC Tania Rattray supported the reforms after changes were made to the obligations for doctors and counsellors who have a conscientious objection to abortion to refer the patient to another health service.
"It's a compromise, it's not my preferred option, but given that significant changes have been made I will support it," Dr Goodwin said.
The upper house scrapped a proposed $32,5000 fine for counsellors who don't refer, specified that a doctor would fulfil their referral obligation by handing out a pamphlet listing appropriate services and clarified that a doctor could continue the consultation despite their objection, so long as they were open about it.
Ms Armitage said the clause was still unnecessary and placed an unreasonable burden on affected doctors, who would still feel complicit.
``I think if you can get pregnant, you can Google abortion and find a clinic,'' she said.
It also reduced penalties for protesting within a 150 metre access zone around a clinic from a maximum $60,000 fine to a $9750 fine, but the maximum jail term of 12 months remained.
However most MLCs said access zones were necessary.
"No woman accessing a legal health service should be subject to any vilification from anybody," Western Tiers MLC Greg Hall said.
A move by Mr Dean to reduce the 16 week threshold to 14 weeks failed, as did a move by Ms Hiscutt to only partially decriminalise abortion by keeping terminations that did not fit the criteria laid out in the Bill subject to the Criminal Code, and its maximum 22 years imprisonment.
FOR: Rattray, Finch, Valentine, Forrest, Farrell, Gaffney, Hall, Goodwin, Harriss.
AGAINST: Dean, Taylor, Armitage, Hiscutt, Mulder.