A renewed push to wind back Victoria’s abortion laws has been rejected by the Andrews government, which says the matter has already been settled by State Parliament.
Seven years after abortion was decriminalised in Victoria, Democratic Labour Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins has drafted a private member’s bill attempting to overhaul the law.
We are not going to go away until we have a law that protects all people.
Under the proposal – which the DLP says is the first of several plans to change legislation – women who are more than 20 weeks’ pregnant would not have the right to an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency. And doctors who carried out an abortion in breach of the new rules could face prosecution and jail terms up to 20 years.
“This protects women from the awful physical and mental consequences of late-term abortion and it protects children,” Dr Carling-Jenkins told the crowd at the annual March for the Babies rally at Parliament. “Women deserve better. Abortions don’t solve problems – they create them.”
The private member’s bill is the first formal attempt to wind back the abortion reforms passed in 2008. However, the earliest the bill could be debated is next year – and even then it is highly unlikely to succeed, as Dr Carling-Jenkins would struggle to find the numbers to make it a reality.
Already, the government (which has 14 out of 40 votes in the Senate-style upper house), the Greens (which has five) and the Sex Party (one) have said they would not support the DLP’s plans, while a spokesman for opposition leader Matthew Guy said such matters would usually be dealt with by the Coalition through a conscience vote.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government believed there was no need to change abortion legislation, which was enshrined by Parliament years ago after extensive debate and careful consideration by the Law Reform Commission.
“The really challenging decision that women may have to make about the future of a pregnancy is one that should be kept between the woman and her doctor. This is a matter that has been settled for a long time in Victoria, and we intend to ensure that continues to be the case,” Ms Hennessy said.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s March for the Babies rally proved to be a relatively peaceful affair, with thousands of pro-life supporters walking from Treasury Gardens to Parliament House to make their views known.
“We are not going to go away until we have a law that protects all people,” said Liberal MP Bernie Finn, who led the event.
Dr Carling-Jenkins says she plans to introduce her bill – the Infant Viability Act – in the next sitting week of Parliament, which starts on October 20, telling supporters it is only “step one” of a much broader push to wind back the law.
However, fellow cross-bencher Fiona Patten, from the Sex Party, branded it “a stunt” and pointed out that the bill could not be debated until next year at the earliest.