By Rachael Wong
Michelle Lensink MLC has introduced a bill into South Australia’s Upper House that will legalise abortion up until birth.
Under the proposed bill, an abortion can be performed by one medical practitioner up to 22 weeks and six days gestation on request (5 months). This is despite advances in medical technology which means it is possible for babies to survive at around 22-24 weeks gestation independent of their mothers. Even the South Australian Perinatal Practice Guidelines recommend ICU and resuscitation for babies born at 23 weeks.
After 22 weeks and 6 days, an abortion can be performed if two medical practitioners are both of the view that the procedure is “medically appropriate”. This terminology is purposely vague, and with no upper limit, an abortion could effectively be carried out for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy.
Abortion on demand, up to birth, was clearly the intention of the South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) whose recommendations the bill is based on. In its “independent report” the SALRI recommended that the law should be amended to allow abortion “at any gestational stage” with “no upper limit” at all.
Since the introduction of Victoria’s similarly extreme abortion law in 2008, at least one abortion was carried out for “psychosocial” reasons (unrelated to physical health) after 37 weeks.
Removing safeguards against late term abortions is particularly dangerous for women and such an extreme position is patently ideological rather than in their best interests. It also shows a flagrant disregard for the lives and bodily integrity of their preborn children, who are afforded no protection whatsoever under this new law.
The bill’s proponents talk about wanting to “modernise” the current law, but like similar “reforms” in other Australian states, the proposed bill is out of step with current medical knowledge of foetal viability and pain, medical advances in neonatal care, and evidence of the harm abortion poses to women.
Instead of introducing an extreme abortion law, the South Australian government should address the desperate circumstances that often drive women to seek abortion in the first place, such as domestic violence, work or family considerations, and a lack of financial or emotional support.
It is time governments stopped championing abortion as the primary or sole option for women facing unplanned pregnancies, rather than taking the time (and spending the money) to address the real issues they are facing.
Women deserve genuine support and real solutions so that they feel empowered to have and raise their children and never feel as if abortion is their only choice.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia