As if they weren’t getting a good run already from stem cells, the Right to Life Association is putting the frighteners on the Victorian ALP ahead of November’s state election.
Abortion is a sensitive matter within Labor ranks, with long running battles between Catholic conservatives and the self-proclaimed progressive wing of the party.
Graphically illustrated pamphlets from Right to Life are appearing in Premier Steve Bracks’s seat of Williamstown alleging Labor stands for the “full and complete decriminalisation of all abortion”.
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The line is sourced to a Herald Sun article in May, where it becomes clear that Right to Life’s claim is based on claims by Pascoe Vale MP Christine Campbell.
The pamphlet appears at a time when the Suman Sood case in NSW once again detailed the inconsistencies in abortion laws, their enforcement and the implications for public health.
The Australian Medical Association obstetrics and gynaecology spokesman Dr Andrew Pesce has called on state governments to clarify abortion laws in the wake of the conviction of Sood for unlawfully administering a drug to procure a miscarriage. He says abortion laws are not well defined, but doctors had previously felt secure interpreting them liberally. Serious concerns have been raised in the media over Sood’s record as a medical practitioner.
Reproductive Choice Australia spokeswoman Leslie Cannold told The Daily Telegraph that it is a “real worry” that issues between abortions, doctor behaviour and regulation have become confused. “It’s a tragedy,” she said. “On one hand you have this terribly incompetent doctor who really needed to have been removed from practice but on the other you have this tragic reaffirmation of an antiquated law that continues to make abortion a crime and women who have them criminals.”
She claims that for 25 years prosecutors have “turned a blind eye” to what may be dozens of illegal abortions. Cannold says abortion needed to be taken out of the Crimes Act, with termination operations then falling under the Health Act. She says that way provider training and professional standards could be kept under close scrutiny. This is the issue at stake in Victoria that has raised the ire of Right to Life.
And they appear to have ignored Bracks’s own comments on the issue last week, when he said abortion laws in Victoria were clear and did not need to be changed. Abortions are performed in Victoria under the 1969 Menhennitt ruling, AAP reported last week. This permits a termination of a pregnancy provided it is to protect the life or health of the woman.
In its draft electoral platform released on April 21 this year, Labor said it was committed to removing section 65 of the Crimes Act so that “no abortion be criminal when performed by a legally qualified practitioner at the request of the woman concerned”.
However, Bracks says a change to the laws would not occur until after a state election and would require that MPs cast their ballot in a conscience vote.