This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.
There’s a lot going on right now in terms of trying to implement fetal personhood provisions and wind back legal abortion around Australia. Here’s the news from four states, anything we’ve missed? What actions are you taking in response?
New South Wales: Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill (No. 2) 2013 has passed the Lower House
Discussion of this has previously appeared on HAT. Since that post, this bill has passed the Legislative Assembly (lower house) following a conscience vote and by a large margin (63 to 26). It will be read in the Legislative Assembly (upper house) in 2014, and if passed there, will become law. Coalition and ALP MPs have been granted a conscience vote by their parties. The Greens oppose the bill. This bill is opposed by the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, and by the NSW Bar Association. The campaign against this bill is at Our Bodies, Our Choices.
I’d love to publish transcripts of the Greens community forum on this bill (held prior to it passing in the Assembly), but am unlikely to have time to transcribe an hours worth of video for at least another week. If you’d like to help out, here’s the Amara links for subtitling: Julie Hamblin’s speech (about half subtitled to date), Philippa Ramsay’s speech (not subtitled) and Leslie Cannold’s speech (not subtitled).
South Australia: Criminal Law Consolidation (Offences against Unborn Child) Amendment Bill 2013 not passed
A bill with fetal personhood provisions in the case of grievous bodily harm to the pregnant person was recently before South Australian parliament, but was rejected. Information is being made available by Tammy Franks, Greens MLC, see Stop the Misguided Foetal Personhood Laws and the transcript of the reading in Parliament. Unlike in NSW, it appears that the ALP did not allow a conscience vote. The debate opens with Kyam Maher, government whip:
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (00:11): I will be extraordinarily brief. The government does not support this bill.
Victoria: early proposals to remove Section 8
At present, the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 requires (in part):
(1) If a woman requests a registered health practitioner to advise on a proposed abortion, or to perform, direct, authorise or supervise an abortion for that woman, and the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion, the practitioner must—
(a) inform the woman that the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion; and
(b) refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion.
A Victorian doctor, Mark Hobart, is facing deregistration over defying these provisions, and a group of Victorian doctors and nurses called Doctors Conscience opposes Section 8 and advocates for its repeal. The Age reports that Labor MP Christine Campbell intends to table the Doctors Conscience petition in Victorian parliament. (A second Victoria doctor, Dr K. — not Mark Hobart — is discussed in the article, who not only defies Section 8 but has been quoted as expressing the opinion that women who seek abortions deserve death. This is detailed in Daniel Mathews’ blog post which provides quotations allegedly from Dr. K. Doctors Conscience has issued a press release stating that they do not advocate for or support harm to pregnant women for any reason.) The Age also reports that the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association supports the repeal of Section 8.
Today The Australian reported that premier Denis Napthine had advised independent MP Geoff Shaw on what would be involved in overturning (or perhaps substantially revising) the Abortion Law Reform Act in Victoria. The ABC reports that Napthine describes himself as having issued pro forma advice on legislative process.
Bills to repeal Section 8 or make wider changes to the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 are yet to be proposed.
Tasmania removes abortion from the criminal code
On November 22, Tasmania removed references to abortion from the criminal code. In addition, like in Victoria, legislation now requires that doctors (and counselors) who conscientiously oppose abortion refer pregnant people to others who they believe do not have such an objection. A PDF of the Reproductive Health (Access to Abortion) Bill 2013 is available.
NPR recently reported on the findings of Paltrow & Flavin, Arrests of and forced interventions on pregnant women in the United States (1973-2005) who report:
- Arrests and incarceration of women because they ended a pregnancy or expressed an intention to end a pregnancy;
- Arrests and incarceration of women who carried their pregnancies to term and gave birth to healthy babies;
- Arrests and detentions of women who suffered unintentional pregnancy losses, both early and late in their pregnancies;
- Arrests and detentions of women who could not guarantee a healthy birth outcome;
- Forced medical interventions such as blood transfusions, vaginal exams, and cesarean surgery on pregnant women;
… Analysis of the legal claims used to justify the arrests of pregnant women found that such actions relied on the same arguments underlying so called “personhood” measures – that state actors should be empowered to treat fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as completely and legally separate from the pregnant woman. Specifically, police, prosecutors, and judges in the U.S. have relied directly and indirectly on… [f]eticide statutes that create separate rights for the unborn and which were passed under the guise of protecting pregnant women and the eggs, embryos, and fetuses they carry and sustain from third-party violence… [my emphasis]
I think this point bears repeating: provisions that were introduced allegedly for the protection of pregnant people and fetuses from third parties have been subsequently used to police the behaviour of pregnant people, including but not limited to those seeking abortion, and including forcing medical procedures on them, and confining them. Fetal personhood provisions are designed to control the bodies of pregnant people.