Human Rights for the Unborn – Tasmania, a new umbrella organisation created in response to the draft Reproductive Health Bill, has declared that the proposed legislation violates the basic human and civil rights of ordinary Tasmanians.

“This isn’t about women’s access to abortion,” said the group’s media representative Mishka Gora. “Abortion was legalised in Tasmania in 2001, right up until birth. This legislation introduces a number of draconian laws that severely restrict the right of conscientious objection and freedom of speech. It also discriminates in favour of and against certain groups.”

The draft laws place a ‘duty to treat’ on doctors and nurses if a pregnant woman is deemed to be at risk of serious injury. It also mandates referrals for doctors and counsellors alike. This means “Catholic hospitals will be required to offer abortion as a treatment option,” Mrs Gora wrote in an article published today on MercatorNet. “Overnight, all agencies which disagree with abortion will be forced to shut down.”

The proposed Bill also imposes a 300-metre-wide exclusion zone prohibiting a range of activities around abortion clinics, affecting peaceful protests, church rallies, and even street photography. The zones include St Joseph’s Catholic Church and four major thoroughfares in Hobart as well as a Catholic hospital and major park in Launceston.

“This is a grave violation of civil rights,” Mrs Gora noted. “It’s not just about peaceful protest. The legislation prohibits other unspecified activity, and given that abortion clinics aren’t even marked as such it would be very easy for someone to unwittingly break the law and end up with a $65,000 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment. A priest may not even be allowed to preach against abortion in his own church. And the government is trying to slip this through after a mere two-week consultation period. It’s scandalous.”

It also makes what would otherwise be an unlawful abortion lawful if performed by a woman on herself, allows surgical abortions to be performed by non-surgeons, and paves the way for discrimination on the basis of sex or disability.
Mishka Gora, Human Rights for the Unborn – Tasmania March 11, 2013