UPDATE ON VICTORIAN ABORTION LAWS

Following the recent passing of extreme abortion laws in New Zealand (as reported in International News last week) it is time to have a look at how the laws in Victoria are operating.  Amongst the jurisdictions in the world that have abortion legislation, prior to the passing of the New Zealand legislation, Victoria had the most extreme law.  The law in Victoria allows for abortion right through to birth on physical, psychological and social grounds when approved by two doctors; this can be the abortion operating surgeon and anaesthetist.  This has, in practice, allowed for abortion on demand, for any reason, right through to birth in Victoria.

Ahead of the legislation being introduced in Victoria in 2008, abortion activists claimed that, although abortion would, in practice, be allowed for any reason, doctors would ensure that the vast majority of abortions would only occur in rare circumstances, such as when a baby had a condition where they would either die in the womb or shortly after birth (a fatal foetal abnormality or life-limiting disability), similar claims are currently now being made about the proposed NZ abortion law by abortion campaigners and MPs in New Zealand.  Data from the 12 years of the law being in operation in Victoria shows that this has not been the case.

Right To Life UK’s Public Affairs team have undertaken an extensive analysis of published abortion data on late-term abortions in Victoria from The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality.  This data shows that since the law changed in 2008, 1,418 late-term abortions (between 20-weeks’ gestation and birth) have been performed, allowed by doctors for ‘psychosocial’ reasons – these were terminations where the baby did not have a disability and the abortion was performed on social grounds.  In 2011, one of these abortions on social grounds occurred at 37 weeks.

Under New Zealand law currently, abortion is allowed post-20 weeks on very strict grounds (when the abortion is “necessary to save the life of the woman or girl or to prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health”).  This strict law has meant that abortions post 20-weeks are rare, for example 72 abortions occurred after 20-weeks in New Zealand in 2017.  Victoria has a population that is only 32% larger than New Zealand’s, but the number of abortions that occurred post 20-weeks were much higher, 323 or 348.61% higher than the number that occurred in New Zealand that same year (published data for Victoria has not been released for 2018 yet).

Another side effect of the very high late-term abortion rate in Australia is that scores of babies have been left to die after being born alive during a number of ‘botched’ terminations.  The Victorian Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity reported that in 2012 there were 53 ‘terminations of pregnancy’ after 20 weeks ‘resulting in live birth’.  By contrast, a 2008 report for England and Wales found that 66 infants were born alive after NHS terminations in one year.  While these figures are comparable in number, Victoria’s population of 6.36 million is just a tenth of the size of the population in England and Wales.

A Channel 7 news report, broadcast on April 17 2010, reported that there had been a large increase in late-term abortions being performed at the Royal Women’s Hospital since the introduction of the 2008 Abortion Law Reform.  Presenter Jennifer Keyte stated how “midwives and doctors feel traumatized” by having to perform so many late-term abortions at the Royal Women’s Hospital.  Journalist Louise Milligan said that there had been some ‘alarming requests’ for late-term abortions, including a request for a termination at 32 weeks because the baby had a cleft lip.

The new abortion law in New Zealand is even more extreme than the law in Victoria, making it the most extreme abortion law in the world.  It would allow abortions between 20-weeks’ gestation and birth with the go-ahead from just two health practitioners (this could include nurses and midwives) rather than the higher threshold of two doctors that are required in Victoria.  In the proposed New Zealand legislation the Abortion Legislation Committee widened the criteria to include “overall well-being”, making it even easier for abortions to happen between 20 weeks and birth in New Zealand.  These are undefined terms and it will be up to the healthcare practitioner as to how they interpret them.

Source: Right to Life

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