Abortion Bill Passes Lower House in Victoria, Australia

By Hilary White

MELBOURNE, September 11, 2008 ( - The bill to remove abortion from the Crimes Act of the state of Victoria, Australia, has passed its third and final reading in the lower house. After a marathon session of Parliament MPs voted 48 in favour and 28 against legalising abortion in the Australian state.

The Abortion Law Reform Bill will legalise abortion without restriction up to 24 weeks’ gestation. After 24 weeks, a mother may have her unborn child killed with the approval of two medical practitioners.

Despite assurances by Premier John Brumby that all amendments would be examined individually, all 41 attempts to moderate the legalisation of abortion were defeated in a single session. Brumby predicted Wednesday that his government’s legislation to remove abortion from the Crimes Act would pass both houses.

Amendments would have required counselling be offered to all mothers before and after an abortion, reduced the gestational cut-off date to 20 weeks, and introduced a panel to consider an abortion after 24 weeks.

While abortion officially remains in the Crimes Act until such a time as the Abortion Law Reform Bill or similar legislation should pass, under the authority of Supreme Court decisions 20,000 abortions a year are committed in the state. Premier Brumby insisted that the bill simply maintains the current situation and would not increase the rate of abortion in the state.

One of the most vocal opponents of the bill, Labour backbencher Christine Campbell, despite assurances that the bill would merely maintain the status quo, said that was clearly untrue.

"If I had a dollar for every time we’ve heard that during this debate ... that would pay for our election campaign," she told parliament.

Premier Brumby on Thursday said the vote in the upper house will be harder for the pro-abortion forces to win. "Where, I suspect, the vote will be a closer vote, but my view is that this will pass into law before the end of the year and that will mean essentially a continuation of current practices, no more, no less," he said.

Emotions ran high during the debates that stretched past midnight on three nights. One Labour MP accused the pro-abortion side of intimidating wavering or pro-life colleagues.

"The feminist Taliban are out there patrolling the corridors, eyeballing anyone who votes against it," the MP said.

Liberal frontbencher Martin Dixon told the house of his very personal reason for vehemently opposing late-term abortions: his daughter, Monique, was born after just 22½ weeks’ gestation. Monique, he said, was "really doing quite well" during her first day of life, but her condition quickly deteriorated and she lived only one more day.

"In the two days of Monique’s life she was a person," Mr Dixon told a hushed house. "She was a daughter, she was a sister, she was a granddaughter and she was a niece. She reacted to us, she reacted to light, she reacted to touch, she held my finger and she was a person."

"Even at 16 weeks our daughter made her presence felt in my wife’s womb and had, we felt, a personality of her own," he said.

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