Friday, August 25, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE: ALP dodging late term abortion debate

The Victorian ALP is preparing to reverse the four decades old restrictions on abortion by permitting abortion of a pregnancy at any time and for any reason provided it is performed by a medical practitioner. The changes, proposed in 2005 by the Victorian ALP, will permit abortions up to very late stages of pregnancy.

Fearing a voter backlash, the Premier Mr Steve Bracks has made a pact with members of his own party, giving "iron clad assurances" that the ALP's policy will be implemented, while he tells the media and public that he "has not made up his mind" or that he has no intention of introducing these laws "in 2006".

Mr Peter Kavanagh, Upper House candidate for Western Victoria in the coming State elections, said “The letter of Victoria's current abortion law allows abortion only in cases of threat to the life or health of the mother (the Menhennitt ruling of 1969). The community retains strong reservations about late term abortions. If re-elected, the Victorian government will abolish the Menhennitt restrictions and allow abortion at any stage for any reason.”

In 2005 the Victorian ALP voted to remove all remaining, if nominal, protections for the unborn in Victoria. The existing ALP platform states: "Labor will amend section 65 of the Crimes Act to provide that no abortion be criminal when performed by a legally qualified medical practitioner at the request of the woman concerned". In May this year the ALP state conference voted overwhelmingly and explicitly against proposed amendments to retain any restrictions on late term abortions and even on 'partial birth abortions'.

“Partial birth abortion, actually a form of infanticide, is usually performed late in the second trimester or later. It involves turning a baby around inside the womb and, when it is born, except for the head, killing it, most often by inserting scissors into the brain. If the head were to be born first, the rest of the baby would emerge quickly, not giving enough time to kill it before birth is complete. There is evidence that this procedure is excruciatingly painful to the baby,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“In spite of constitutional restrictions on anti-abortion laws in the US, partial birth abortion was made illegal throughout the US in 2003 at any stage. The ALP's policy will allow partial birth abortions, even up to the time of natural birth,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“I know that there are lots of different views about this, but I think Victorians would want to see candidates questioned about this issue before they were elected. I don’t believe we’ve reached a stage in the debate where people no longer care that healthy, late term pregnancies could be aborted in what I think most people would call infanticide,” Mr Kavanagh said.