By Nicholas W. Smith and Peter J. Smith

  MELBOURNE, Australia July 17, 2007 ( – Abortion may be completely decriminalised within the year if a newly introduced bill passes in Australia’s Victorian state Parliament. The legislation proposed by Labor MP Candy Broad would remove abortion from the Victorian Crimes Act and effectively leave no restraints upon abortion. 

  Although 20,000 abortions occur each year in the state of Victoria, abortion is still technically illegal under the Victorian Crimes Act. In 1969, the Supreme Court of Victoria ruled that abortion is lawful only when done to protect the physical or mental health of the woman and only if the danger of abortion is less than the danger posed by carrying the child to term. 

“The effect of the legislation is to not change current practice, in terms of the provision of abortion services to women,” Ms. Broad stated to the Herald Sun. “The big change will be … the provisions in the Crimes Act that make abortion unlawful, and (hold the) threat of prosecution over the heads of women, their partners and doctors, will be removed.”

  Ms. Broad stated that she brought the bill before the upper house on behalf of the Association for the Legal Right to Abortion, which has lobbied unsuccessfully for years to decriminalise abortion completely.

  According to Australia’s The Age, Ms. Broad’s bill received tentative support from opposition leader and Liberal MP Ted Bailleau, but has encountered surprising resistance from members of her own party, even though the Labor platform is committed to legalising abortion. Alison Crosweller, a spokeswoman for Premier Steve Bracks (ALP), said that the Premier preferred the current legal status of abortion, while Health Minister Bronwyn Pike expressed reluctance to support the bill saying that it “basically creates abortion on demand.” 
  Right to Life Australia’s president, Margaret Tighe, spoke ardently against the bill, calling it the most infamous piece of legislation to have ever appeared in the Victorian Parliament. 

“Any legislation that says that a certain class of human beings can be killed is a gross abuse of human rights,” Tighe said.   “If this legislation is passed, wild ducks in Victoria will have more protection than unborn children.” 

“Once you open the prospect entirely of the conduct of abortions … then I just think it is fallacious logic to think that we are not going to see an increase in an already significant rate of abortion within Victoria,” stated Nationals leader Peter Ryan.

  Although Ms. Broad has expressed confidence that her bill will pass through Parliament, it is expected to be defeated in the upper house unless it is amended to allow it to have broader appeal.

  The bill may be considered by August 7, and all parties of the legislature are expected to allow their members conscience votes on the legislation.